March 2, 2009 / 10:31 PM / 11 years ago

Toyota targets 6 percent share of weak Europe market

GENEVA (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said on Monday it aimed to boost its market share in Europe to 6 percent in 2009 from 5.3 percent last year, although it expects industry-wide sales in the region to decline by nearly 30 percent to 15 million vehicles.

Visitors walk past covered cars at the exhibition stand of Japanese carmaker Toyota during a preview day of the 79th Geneva Car Show at the Palexpo in Geneva March 2, 2009. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Sales of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles totaled

21 million units in 2008 in the broader European market including Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, taking a sharp downturn

toward the end of the year as the global economic crisis squeezed credit for would-be car buyers.

Toyota’s sales in the region fell 8.6 percent to 1,146,000 vehicles last year, lowering its market share by 0.3 percent from 2007.

“We expect market share of 6 percent in 2009, based on new products,” Toyota Motor Europe’s executive vice president, Thierry Dombreval, told a small group of reporters ahead of the Geneva auto show. He declined to specify a sales volume target, but based on his forecast for the overall market, Toyota’s sales would come to around 900,000 vehicles.

After a drought of new products, Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, said it would launch 16 new products in Europe this year including two hybrid cars: the third-generation Prius and the Lexus RX450h, to be displayed at the Geneva auto show opening this week. Toyota also unveiled the new Verso compact multi-purpose vehicle at a pre-show news conference on Monday.

Like other carmakers, Toyota has slashed production at its European factories through temporary closures and other measures, and is looking to introduce a work-sharing scheme to avoid shedding any permanent jobs in Europe.

Dombreval said he expected sales to fall by about a quarter in Western Europe and as much as 40 percent elsewhere such as Russia, where the currency has collapsed and financing remains next to impossible.

He added that sales volumes would likely be lower in the second half of 2009 compared with the first half, when various government incentives to buy cars were expected to support sales.

“We have more bad news coming (in the second half),” Dombreval said, adding that could persist into the first half of 2010.

Still, Toyota is looking to outperform its rivals with the 16 new models, which it said would lower its fleet’s average carbon dioxide emissions to below 140 grams per kilometer, against an EU-wide average of 158 grams/km.

One sales driver would be the third-generation Prius, which emits just 89 grams of CO2 per km and can run 100 km on 3.9 liters of petrol. That is an improvement from the current Prius’ CO2 emission of 104 g/km and fuel economy of 4.3 liters/km, and outshines Honda Motor Co’s (7267.T) upcoming, low-cost Insight hybrid’s emission of 101 grams/km.

Tadashi Arashima, chief executive of Toyota’s European operations, told reporters he expected Toyota’s sales of hybrid vehicles to grow by 15 percent in 2009 from the 58,000 sold last year, of which 41,000 came from the Prius.

Toyota will replace the current Prius with its new and pricier successor starting in June in Europe.

Worldwide, Toyota is planning to launch 10 new hybrid models by the early 2010s, including a compact model smaller than the Prius, Toyota Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto said.

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