PARIS (Reuters) -- Toyota Motor Corp. expects to ride out the worst effects of the slump in Russia's car market and is sticking to its target of increasing sales to a million vehicles in Europe next year, the automaker's Europe boss, Didier Leroy, said at the Paris auto show.
Though Russia's car sales this year could drop to their lowest level since the financial crisis as Western sanctions over Ukraine weaken the economy further, Toyota says its focus on high-end vehicles will help to keep its Russian numbers steady this year.
"There is a lot of uncertainty in Russia, people are more reluctant to spend money; this is why the entry market is much more affected than the premium market," Leroy said.
The fragility of the European market, where sales remain 20 percent below their 2007 peak, means that the Paris show is packed with new fuel-efficient small cars and compact SUVs designed to close the gap.
Leroy said that while Russia's car sales in the premium segment were down 8 percent, the drop was at 25 percent to 30 percent for entry-level cars, hurting many of Toyota's competitors.
Vehicles such as its Camry and Lexus models have helped Toyota to boost its share of the declining Russian market by about 1 percent this year.
Toyota expects to lift European sales this year to slightly more than 865,000 vehicles from 847,530 in 2013, Leroy said, and the target to sell 1 million vehicles in the region in 2015 still stands.
In the first eight months, Russian car sales fell 12 percent to 1.58 million, industry organization AEB said last month.