NEW-CAR sales in western and central Europe are declining, but Toyota has increased its volume and expects to reach 800,000 annual sales by 2004, one year ahead of the company's plan. Takis Athanasopoulos, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Toyota Europe, is leading the sales effort. He talked to reporter Georg Auer.
How did Toyota get ahead of its growth schedule in Europe when the overall market is in decline?
We had a very good year in Europe last year. Our sales volume increased to 756,000 cars (up from 666,000 in 2001) and our market share rose to 4.4 percent. Now for the first time with the Avensis we have the opportunity to sell cars that are designed and developed in Europe. We can now offer with our cars nine very good diesel engines. They must be good because we sell one to BMW for the Mini diesel that is just being introduced. It is the same engine that is in the Yaris.
What is Toyota's sales target this year in Europe?
The target for 2003 is 790,000. In January and February we increased our sales by 5 percent over last year.
What are your sales goals for the new Lexus RX300 that will be on sale in several markets before summer?
In a good year we sold 7,000 of the previous model. So we are planning to increase sales of the new RX300 by 5 percent, meaning 9,000 cars in a full good year.
What is driving Toyota's growth in Europe?
The great improvement is the establishment of the European Design Center in London and much improved communication between our local production, marketing and sales and design people. We really have good communication in Europe when we get ready to start a new model.