LONDON - Toyota wants to sell 2 million vehicles a year in Europe by 2015.
"We don't say so in public, but that's what we want to achieve," a senior Toyota source, who requested anonymity, said at a press briefing here.
When questioned about the 2015 target, Takis Athanasopoulos, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Europe, said, "All I will say is that our aim is to sell 1.2 million vehicles a year in Europe by 2010."
Selling 2 million passenger cars and commercial vehicles a year in Europe would put Toyota on the same level as all the region's major automotive groups except Volkswagen - and ahead of many.
But analysts don't think the sales goal is realistic.
"I suspect that's a general ambition rather than a concrete business plan," says Nigel Griffiths, director of international automotive industry research at Global Insight in London. "It would be a massive stretch. It implies Toyota will take 100 percent of the market growth between 2010 and 2015."
Tom Aney, an auto analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Frankfurt, said "[Established European automakers] aren't going to give it away and you've got the Koreans coming in as well."
But competitors have learned not to underestimate Toyota's ability to meet ambitious goals. It reached its target of 800,000 European sales two years ahead of plan - in 2003 instead of 2005 - and Athanasopoulos says Toyota may beat the 2010 goal of 1.2 million by "perhaps two years."
Because Toyota puts strong emphasis on building vehicles where it sells them, it would need to substantially expand its manufacturing base in Europe.
"We have many choices to expand capacity," said Shinichi Sasaki, the new CEO of Toyota Motor Europe. "We could build a new plant, but where? Or we could increase capacity in our current plants."
He said the automaker must make some key decisions on capacity by the end of this year or in early 2006.
Toyota plans to produce 606,000 vehicles - up from 583,000 in 2004 - in Europe (including Turkey) this year, plus 511,000 engines and 306,000 transmissions.
Toyota's hopes for Europe are part of a broad push to achieve a global market share of 15 percent.
The Japanese automaker estimates it sold 515,000 vehicles across Europe in the first half of this year. That puts it ahead of schedule on its 2005 goal of 980,000. If it achieves that, it would be the carmaker's ninth consecutive year of record sales in Europe.