BERLIN - Toyota Motor Corp. has aggressive plans to capture a 5 percent share of the European automotive market in 2005, said Toyota Motor Europe CEO Akira Imai.
Japan's biggest carmaker already has decided to add a second vehicle, the Verso microvan, to the new factory in Valenciennes, France, which will begin producing the Yaris small car in 2001.
A new component factory in Poland producing transmissions for the Yaris will be approved at Toyota's board meeting in early July, said Imai in a speech to the Automotive News Europe Con-gress last month here.
Imai said Verso production is likely to begin first in Japan, as with the Yaris, because Toyota Europe does not want to build an all-new vehicle in a new factory. Timing for production in Europe has not been set.
Toyota already has 80,000 orders for the Yaris less than four months after the car debuted, said Imai. The car is only available with a 1.0-liter engine. But Toyota's board has approved adding a 1.3-liter engine, Imai said.
The Yaris is the first of a range of vehicles designed for Europe that Toyota plans to debut in the coming years to meet its ambitious goals.
'European customers are among the most diverse and demanding in the world,' said Imai. 'But we believe that the passion we put into our technical and design work will translate into more of the customer delight we have already seen with the growing number of models designed and made for Europe.'
Toyota Europe ultimately will have a product in 'every market niche,' said Imai.
Last year, Toyota topped Nissan sales in Europe for the first time. The automaker hopes to maintain its lead with projected sales of 600,000 units, Imai said. The target for 2005 is 800,000 units, a level that may require adding more production capacity, Imai said. Toyota has not decided where to locate a new plant, but central Europe might be a prime location, he said.
Toyota has no plans to merge with or acquire another carmaker, Imai noted. He denied recent rumors that it will merge with Volkswagen AG. However, Toyota will continue to cooperate with other makers in specific areas. For example, Toyota signed a recycling agreement with VW. The company also signed a deal involving in-car navigation systems and the licensing of catalysts for lean-burn and direct-injection engines to DaimlerChrysler and VW.