BERLIN - Toyota Motor Europe is determined to become a major player in the European automotive market and capture a 5 percent share in 2005, said Akira Imai, president and chief executive officer.
Japan's biggest carmaker has already decided to add a second vehicle, the Verso microvan, to the new factory in Valenciennes, France, which will begin producing the Yaris supermini in 2001.
A new component factory in Poland producing transmissions for the Yaris will be approved at Toyota's board meeting in early July, said Imai in a speech to the Automotive News Europe Congress here.
Imai said Verso production is likely to begin first in Japan, as with the Yaris, because Toyota Europe doesn't want to build an all-new vehicle in a new factory. Timing for production in Europe hasn't been set.
Toyota already has 80,000 orders for the Yaris, just three-and-a-half months after the car debuted, said Imai. The car is only available with a 1.0-liter engine, but Toyota's board has approved adding a 1.3-liter engine, said Imai.
The Yaris is the first of a range of vehicles designed for Europe that Toyota plans to debut in the coming years to meet its ambitious goals.
'European customers are among the most diverse and demanding in the world,' said Imai. 'But we believe that the passion we put into our technical and design work will translate into more of the customer delight we have already seen with the growing number of models designed and made for Europe.'
Toyota Europe will ultimately have a product in 'every market niche,' said Imai.
Last year Toyota topped Nissan's sales in Europe for the first time. It hopes to hold the crown in 1999 with projected sales of 600,000 units, said Imai.
The target for 2005 is 800,000 units, a level that may require adding more production capacity, Imai said. Where Toyota Europe would add that capacity hasn't been determined yet, but central Europe might be a prime location, he said.
'We have a lot to do to become a major European manufacturer,' Imai said.
Toyota has no plans to merge with or acquire another carmaker, said Imai.
He denied recent reports that it will merge with VW. Toyota will, however, continue to cooperate with other makers in specific areas, such as the agreement with VW on recycling and in-car navigation systems, and the licensing of three-way NOx catalysts for lean-burn and direct-injection engines to DaimlerChrysler and VW.
Name: Akira Imai
Title: President and chief executive officer, Toyota Motor Europe
Theme: Toyota will be a player to watch in the European market
Quote: 'Our vision for Europe is underlined by our commitment to meet the needs of European customers and to lead in corporate citizenship'