LONDON – Toyota will drop its sporty Celica and MR2 and Previa minivan in Europe next year in a big overhaul of its model range here.
But in a change of plans, the next-generation Land Cruiser, due in 2006, still will be sold in Europe as a Toyota. Toyota had planned to badge the Land Cruiser as a Lexus, the Toyota luxury brand, as it does in the US.
Toyota insiders say the moves will narrow the Toyota range. That means it will sell more European-built cars. Toyota plans to sell 1.2 million Toyota and Lexus models in Europe by 2010 and build 70 percent of those vehicles in Europe.
Dropping the sports cars and the Previa also will help Toyota achieve the voluntary 140 grams-per-kilometer CO2 emission level by 2009. The cars produce between 178g/km and 259g/km of CO2. Asian automakers have one year longer to reach the CO2 levels than European carmakers.
The Celica, MR2 and Previa are imported niche vehicles that only represent 1.6 percent of Toyota’s 916,000 2004 sales in Europe.
“The Celica and MR2 are low-volume lines that have their main market in the US,” Toyota spokesman Scott Brownlee said. “In the US, the sports car role has been taken over by the Scion tC Coupe – but the Scion brand isn’t sold in Europe.”
But Toyota could potentially replace conventional sports cars with high-performance hybrids in Europe. Executives have suggested a hybrid sports car could offer both high performance and fuel economy.
Last week, Karl Schlicht, vice president of Lexus Europe, said hybrids would be a “brand-defining technology of Lexus.”
“The RX400h is the cornerstone of our strategy in establishing Lexus as a technology leader in the luxury market,” he said. “The GS450h [medium-premium sedan] will be launched next year and more hybrids will follow.”