Toyota's European sales are heating up, as demand for its hybrid models soars in response to the diesel backlash. Last year, ahead of schedule, the automaker hit its 2020 target of 1 million Toyota and Lexus sales across its European region, which includes Russia and Turkey. The surge moved the automaker closer to matching its record of 1.2 million units sold in 2008. This time, however, the growth is profitable and has been since 2011, except for a loss in 2017. Matt Harrison, who joined Toyota from Ford in 2000, has been steering the European sales operation since 2015. He talked with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Nick Gibbs about SUVs, plug-in hybrids and where next to take Toyota's key conquest car, the youthful Aygo.
You have the new Corolla compact coming next year, replacing the Auris. Will it be the highest split between hybrid and nonhybrid?
It will come close. C-HR is actually the highest at 87 percent hybrid in Western Europe year to date. Today Auris is 77 percent, and we expect about 85 percent with the Corolla's two hybrid powertrains.
When the Auris was launched, you wanted a more upmarket name. Now you have reverted to Corolla. Did the Auris not connect with customers?
This is not really as a result of the Auris failing. With the Auris we have managed to get our compact into the top five, commanding more than a 5 percent share. What has changed is Toyota has become a much more coordinated brand globally. We shouldn't have the same cars running around in different regions with different names. It lacks integrity.
The Supra sports car is coming next year. What sales volume do you expect in Europe?
The role of the car is absolutely not about volume or profit; it's about brand. It's a halo to bring emotion and excitement to life. I expect [to sell] a couple of thousand units -- the segment is very small. I expect demand to outstrip supply.
Word is that the new model coming to your French plant is a small SUV.
We haven't said that, but it's fair to say that the way that segment is booming hasn't escaped our attention.