VIANEN, Netherlands -- Daihatsu aims to more than double its sales in Europe to 70,000 units a year by 2008.
The Japanese maker of minicars and small cars, which is 51 percent owned by Toyota, is preparing a relaunch in Europe.
Daihatsu sold 27,333 cars in Europe last year, up 11.3 percent from 24,553 in 2002. Daihatsu's European sales are mainly in the UK, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
"When I saw that our European efforts were not profitable enough, I decided to make a re-start," Takaya Yamada, president of Daihatsu Motor Co., said in an interview here.
To help double its sales, Daihatsu will begin selling in central Europe in 2006.
Yamada, a former Toyota purchasing executive who joined Daihatsu in 1999, says Daihatsus could be built in Europe, but not before 2007.
"We are still faced with 10 percent import duties in Europe," he said.
Yamada could not give details about potential European production sites. "We are studying options, for [western] Europe, the eastern [European] block, or otherwise India. We have to think together with Toyota in this respect, but I do not exclude a stand-alone manufacturing plant."
Yamada said that a production volume between 30,000 and 50,000 would be needed.
Daihatsu is not represented in central Europe, nor is it in some of the major west European markets. "Our networks in France and Spain are currently nonexistent," Yamada said. "We will focus on our well-established markets first."
Thierry Dombreval, president of Toyota Motor Europe, said his company and Daihatsu have separate ambitions. He said: "Daihatsu's ambitions are not included in our own strategy to sell 900,000 units in Europe this year, and to grow to 1.2 million units in 2010. They will have an independent dealership strategy, so integration of Daihatsu dealers in our network is not studied by us."
Daihatsu will launch a series of new models, beginning in January with the Sirion small car. It will replace the Terios SUV and Cuore minicar by 2006.
Future models will be more Europe-specific in design and equipment. "We will focus on small and compact cars, and compact SUVs, which are typical European models," Yamada said.
He added that Daihatsu models have lower CO2 emissions than the 140 grams-per-kilometer limit that Japanese brands have agreed to reach by 2009.