Toyota Europe CEO Didier Leroy is not worried about rival Nissan's publicly stated goal of passing his company as Europe's top-selling Asian brand. Leroy puts profit before volume and he has returned Toyota's European operations back to the black. His success has earned him more independence from headquarters to take big decisions, such as making Toyota's cars "sexier." The Frenchman also has convinced his bosses in Japan to let him tweak models earlier than ever before. He spoke with Automotive News Europe UK Correspondent Nick Gibbs at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Brussels last month.
You have said that Toyota headquarters in Japan has given you more independence to make the brand "sexier" in Europe. How will this be achieved?
We were probably too rational in the past in terms of exterior and interior design. One of our key challenges was to develop a much more appealing exterior design. To do that we said we must be able to make big changes ourselves, including on existing cars in the middle of their life cycles. This is something that even two or three years ago was totally impossible, but we said now we are profitable in Europe, we can self-finance this activity.