Toyota's big bet on hybrids is paying off in Europe, where customers are looking for an alternative to diesels. The automaker expects models with its gasoline-electric powertrain to account for half of all its sales in the region by 2020, up from 40 percent now. One way Toyota hopes to lure new customers to its hybrids is by making them more powerful. Toyota Europe CEO Johan van Zyl outlined the plan during an interview with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Andrea Malan.
What percentage of your sales in Europe are hybrids?
Currently, 40 percent of our sales in Europe [which for Toyota includes Russia and Turkey] are hybrids. Our target is to reach 50 percent hybrids in Europe by 2020. Today, the share is close to 50 percent in Western Europe and rises to 60 percent in countries such as France.
Toyota announced at this year's Frankfurt auto show it would soon enlarge its hybrid powertrain range by adding more powerful versions. What's driving this?
Our customers are rational buyers who look for a favorable total cost of ownership but they also want driving pleasure. We think this move will enable us to cater for those looking for more power.
Will those new hybrid powertrains replace your diesels?
We have tried to differentiate ourselves by having hybrid variants in every segment except the A-segment [minicars]. When we launched the C-HR crossover, we decided not to offer a diesel. Today, 77 percent of C-HR sales in Europe are hybrids and the figure is 90 percent in France. We'll decide model by model [whether to exclude a diesel variant], but our future is hybrids.
Why doesn't Toyota stop offering diesels altogether?
Diesel is still necessary for vehicles such as the Land Cruiser [large SUV], which comes with a 2.8-liter, Euro 6.2 compliant engine. In this kind of engine, we can provide all the necessary technology to make the diesel clean. For smaller models, it is more difficult [to justify the added cost of the technology needed to reduce diesel emissions]. We will decide model by model, but the chances of us launching a new diesel engine in a passenger car or LCV are limited.