February 29, 2016 / 10:25 PM / 3 years ago

Toyota, BMW strongly motivated to collaborate on sportscar: Totoya executive

GENEVA (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Germany’s BMW (BMWG.DE) are still keen to develop a common sportscar architecture but have yet to decide on a timeline for the project, a senior executive at the Japanese carmaker said on Monday.

The logo of Toyota is seen on a Toyota Fortuner vehicle at a showroom in Jakarta, Indonesia February 24, 2016. Picture taken February 24. REUTERS/Beawiharta

BMW and Toyota have for some years been collaborating on fuel cell technology, lightweight components, and on possibly jointly developing the underpinnings of a sportscar, which would spawn separate vehicles for each brand.

Speaking ahead of the Geneva auto show, Toyota executive vice president Didier Leroy said all three projects were going very well and there was strong support for the sportscar from both firms.

“On both sides we have strong motivation to make it successful, we want to make the car,” Leroy said. “We know exactly which kind of body we want to do, we know exactly which kind of powertrain we want to use ... now we just have to decide by when we want to start this car.”

He declined to comment on a possible timeframe.

Toyota’s sales in Europe, which for the carmaker counts 56 countries, including Israel, Russia and Turkey, fell slightly to 874,000 vehicles last year as higher deliveries in the western part of the region failed to offset a sharp drop in Russia.

But volumes are seen returning to growth in 2016.

“In 2014 we sold 888,000, and we’ve set ourselves a target of stepping above that (in 2016),” Toyota’s head for Europe Johan van Zyl said at the same event. He expects overall industry sales in the region to grow by 1 percent this year.

Some 70 percent of Toyota’s vehicles sold in Europe last year were produced in the region. The carmaker expects to increase that percentage this year by adding two localized models, the C-HR crossover that will be manufactured in Turkey and the RAV4 that will be assembled in Russia.

Van Zyl said Toyota was committed to the Russian market, despite the challenges there. In 2015, total car industry sales in Russia plunged by 36 percent to 1.6 million.

“We will not give up on the Russian market ... we will keep on investing to prepare ourselves for when the market recovers,” he said.

Van Zyl said Toyota expected hybrid vehicles to make up half of its sales in Europe by 2020 from 24 percent last year.

Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Alison Williams

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