BERLIN - Toyota will begin importing a microvan in Europe next year and later will assemble it in France.
Toyota Motor Corp.directors have approved of Verso microvan and a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine for the van, said Akira Imai, president of Toyota Motor Europe.
The Verso will be similar to the concept vehicle of the same name shown at the Geneva auto show in March. It will be smaller than the Renault Megane Scenic and General Motors' Opel/Vauxhall Zafira.
The Verso will be built at Toyota's new plant in Valenciennes, France, after the Yaris has reached full production, said Imai. The plant will begin building the Yaris in early 2001.
The Verso is based on the Yaris. (The U.S. version of the Yaris, the Echo, goes on sale this year.)
The Verso will be imported from Japan at first. But Toyota no longer will face European quotas when the Verso debuts next year.
Imai said Toyota has 80,000 orders for the Yaris in Europe. He is worried Japanese import curbs, which expire at year end, will not let Toyota meet demand in Southern Europe.
The 1999 quotas were based on the assumption the European market would drop 2 percent this year. Instead, sales have increased 7.4 percent through May. The Japanese quota levels will not be adjusted again until this autumn - and that is too late to make an impact in the more restricted countries, said Imai.
Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom have specific quotas for each Japanese make. 'The Yaris has been a hot seller in Italy,' said a Toyota Europe spokesman. 'If we pass our limit, we can't move more product until the ceiling is gone.'