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Toyota Europe Chief Vows to Maintain Profitability

Executive Summary

Didier Leroy says the auto maker’s European arm saw sales revenue and profitability grow 2.1% and 149%, respectively, during the first nine months of this fiscal year.

GENEVA – Toyota has been gaining ground in Europe for the past three years, and 2013 will be no exception, Toyota Europe CEO Didier Leroy says.

 “Everything is difficult,” he says after predicting during his press presentation at the auto show here that the European market “most likely will decline again” this year.

While his “most likely” assessment is more positive than the general belief that the market will fall another 4% this year, Leroy denies he is being optimistic.

“The key for us is not to look down,” he says. “Even if it is difficult, we have to be more challenging and overcome the difficulty.”

Toyota promises a technological tour de force in coming years, with the introduction here of the electric i-Road, a scooter-sized vehicle for individuals that will compete with the Renault Twizy, and the rollout of 21 hybrid and one fuel-cell-powered model by 2015.

For 2013, he says, Toyota aims at 850,000 sales in Europe, of which 150,000 will be hybrids, up 35% from year-ago. Among the hybrids will be the Toyota Auris Touring Sports, a station-wagon version of the brand’s C-segment vehicle.

The Auris hybrid due out in June will have a powertrain that emits only 84 g/km of carbon dioxide, says Karl Schlicht, head of sales.

Toyota this year also will introduce the fourth generation of the RAV4, a version of which will be efficient to the tune of 127 g/km.

To please the sporting crowd, Toyota showed an FT-86 (FR-S in the U.S.) open concept of the kind that barely disguises a real vehicle coming soon. Schlicht says the GT-86 was designed with a body ready to handle an open car.

Leroy, who ran Toyota’s manufacturing plant in France after leaving Renault, was named head of Toyota Europe in 2010 and tasked with reversing a sales slump.

He says the auto maker reached its 2010 goal of halting the decline, met its 2011 targets of growing sales and achieving a positive cash flow and is headed toward meeting its objectives of growing sales and delivering profit for the 2012 fiscal year ending March 31.

Leroy says Toyota Europe in the nine months through January had increased sales revenue  2.1% and profitability 149% year-over-year.

The i-Road will be used in an experimental car-sharing program in Grenoble, France, for the next three years as it seeks its place in a new world of driving.

Measuring 92.7 ins. (235 cm) long, 57 ins. (144 cm) high and 33.5 ins. (85 cm) wide, it can park easily in crowded European cities. Range is 31 miles (50 km).

The 3-wheeled EV has a turning radius of just 118 ins. (300 cm), helped by its self-leaning system that automatically balances the vehicle when cornering or traveling over rough surfaces. The interior is closed, unlike the Twizy’s, which is open above the beltline.

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