Eighteen years ago Didier Leroy left his job as deputy plant director at Renault's Le Mans facility to join Toyota to help the Japanese automaker launch its greenfield plant in Valenciennes, France. Since then, the French engineer has become one of Toyota's most powerful executives. Although he has a global job now, Leroy still plays a major role in the company's European operations. He recently shared his bullish outlook for Toyota's European sales with Automotive News Europe Editor Luca Ciferri.
Will Toyota's sales rise in Europe?
We expect to sell more than 900,000 units this year in our Europe region [including Turkey and Russia], up from 875,000 in 2015. I have no doubt that next year our sales will be even higher, largely because of the C-HR [compact crossover], which I'm sure will be a success.
Is pricing getting more disciplined?
We still see a lot of competitors that are trying to push cars in various markets using less profitable sales channels.
Nissan outsold Toyota brand last year in the EU, according to ACEA data.
But Toyota was more profitable last year. So far this year we have been outselling them while remaining profitable.
What is your outlook for Europe sales?
The Western European car market is on track to grow 3 percent to 5 percent this year and is not expected to decrease in 2017. But Eastern Europe is decreasing, particularly Russia, which was down 36 percent last year and 14 percent so far this year. The future of the Eastern European car market will mainly be linked to what happens with the oil price.
How will Toyota react?
We have to demonstrate our speed and flexibility to take advantage of any single opportunity that could arise while preventing ourselves from expecting to benefit from any tailwinds from the markets.
Does diesel have a future in Europe?
The importance of diesel is decreasing, but there is still demand. Toyota’s diesel sales in Europe are now below 20 percent [of total sales], down from 30 percent in the past. We are sure that over time we will see more and more hybrids.