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GENEVA (Reuters) — Toyota Motor Corp. expects to sell more than 865,000 vehicles in Europe this year, a rise of about 2 percent from the 847,530 units sold in 2013, helped by a gradually recovering market and the popularity of its hybrid models, the head of its European operations said.
Didier Leroy also said the company expects to grow its market share in Europe from last year’s 4.7 percent. Toyota still targets sales in the region of 1 million by 2015, Leroy said, but added he would not push to reach that target if it cannot be done profitably.
“We will not grow just for volume,” Leroy told a media roundtable before the opening of the Geneva auto show where the group will unveil a new version of its Aygo minicar. “If I can achieve profitable growth by pushing to 1 million, I will.”
Leroy also said he expected to boost Toyota’s profitability in Europe in the financial year to the end of March after operating profit already jumped 56 percent to 327 million euros ($450.39 million) in the first nine months.
He said the weakness of the Russian ruble and the Turkish lira had a “very negative” impact on his operations, but would not affect the profitability target. He did not foresee any major improvements in those two currencies anytime soon.
Leroy said the company was carefully monitoring the unfolding situation in Ukraine and Russia, where the group sold 16,000 and 172,000 vehicles last year, respectively.
The Japanese carmaker counts 56 countries, including Israel and Russia, as part of its European market, which Leroy expects to continue recovering.
“Everyone agrees that the second half of 2013 was already better and 2014 will continue the same trend,” he said. “But it will be a very, very slow recovery.” He said growth in the region this year would be driven by western Europe, while he expected central and eastern Europe to be stable.
Since 2010, Leroy has spearheaded a restructuring of Toyota’s European business while the automaker faced a safety crisis in the United States and production halts after the March 2011 tsunami in Japan.
The executive expects sales and market share gains to be buoyed by new models, further cost cuts and the increased popularity of hybrids, adding Europe was already Toyota’s fastest growing hybrid region.
“Last year, we sold more than 156,000 hybrids in Europe, which is almost 20 percent of our sales,” Leroy said.
Karl Schlicht, head of sales in Europe, later added that the carmaker’s hybrid versions of its Yaris and Auris model had “been a breakthrough” for the group in the technology and helped boost sales by being more traditional European designs and with a pricing that came closer to the mainstream options.
Source: [AutoNews.com]Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Like its cousins from Peugeot and Citroën, the Aygo foregoes a diesel engine in favor of a highly efficient gas powerplant. The 1.0-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder turns out 68 horsepower and 70 pound-feet of torque. When it hits the market, it’ll be with either a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed, X-Shift automated manual. The former will help the Aygo return 57.3 miles per gallon and hit 62 miles per hour in 14.2 seconds. Opting for the X-Shift variant will net drivers 56 mpg, with 62 arriving in a leisurely 15.5 seconds.
We’ll admit, aside from the fuel efficiency, there’s nothing terribly great about those numbers. Still, with its compact dimensions – it’s only 136 inches long – and a curb weight of no more than 2,000 pounds, it should prove tossable in the bends.
As for its look, we reported on those yesterday. We aren’t really sure what convinced Toyota to give the Aygo such a distinctive styling detail in front, but aside from that, we think this is the best of three cars to ride on this city-car platform. If you’re not convinced by the still images, have a go with the Aygo commercial, Follow the link below.
Source: [AutoBlog.com]Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
SALAMANCA, Mexico — Toyota Motor Corp. will add Mazda’s fuel-efficient Skyactiv engine to its tiny stable of borrowed powerplants when it sources a new Mazda2-based subcompact from Mazda’s just-opened assembly plant here.
The car will get Toyota-designed sheet metal on the outside but Mazda’s high-compression, fuel-injected Skyactiv gasoline engine under the hood, said Keishi Egawa, CEO of Mazda’s operations in Mexico and director of its plant here.
“They will make model-specific investment for the Toyota vehicle,” Egawa said in an interview at last month’s factory opening. “Stamping, dies — that is theirs,” he said, as well as “some of the interior design work.” But the Toyota spinoff will use “our engine,” he said.
50,000 a year
The factory will allocate about 50,000 vehicles for Toyota from its full annual capacity of 230,000 units. Output for Toyota is expected to begin after April 1, 2015, but before March 31, 2016.
Using Mazda’s Skyactiv engine may help Toyota burnish the appeal of its subcompact offerings. The car is pegged to replace the lackluster Yaris, the latest generation of which arrived in the United States in the fall of 2011 with a carryover engine and transmission. It would be one of only a few direct-injection engines at Toyota. Only select Lexus nameplates, the Scion FR-S and some Japan-market Toyota sedans, such as the Crown, use direct injection.
For Mazda, it means maximizing economies of scale at its Mexican operation. It also allows Mazda to promote its Skyactiv technology as the powerplant for a well-respected rival.
Mazda has not released details of the next-generation Mazda2, but it is expected to enter production in Mexico as early as the second half of this year. The company began producing the Skyactiv-equipped Mazda3 sedan and hatchback at the site in January.
While the Japan-market Mazda2 already offers a 1.3-liter Skyactiv engine, the current U.S. version does not get Skyactiv treatment. The next generation is expected to receive the whole set of Skyactiv technologies, including the new engine, transmission and chassis.
Mazda is migrating its entire lineup to the lightweight Skyactiv architecture, which aims to boost fuel economy while maintaining responsive driving dynamics. A key mission of the Salamanca plant is to further the penetration of the Skyactiv lineup in other markets.
A Toyota spokesman confirmed that Toyota’s Mexican-built spinoff of the Mazda2 will get a Mazda engine assembled on-site. He declined to comment on what other Skyactiv technologies, such as chassis components, would be used in the Toyota version.
Toyota is no stranger to using engines from other manufacturers, although it does so rarely. Its Scion FR-S uses an engine from Subaru-builder Fuji Heavy Industries, and its Verso minivan gets a diesel engine from BMW AG. The Lexus LFA sports car, which ended production in 2012, was powered by a V-10 engine from Yamaha Motor Co.
In October, Mazda will open an engine machining shop next to its Salamanca assembly plant. It will be flexible enough to machine any engine in Mazda’s lineup, gasoline or diesel. Supplying some of the engines to Toyota may help it achieve better economies of scale.
Mazda currently mounts only the 2.0-liter Skyactiv gasoline engine in the Mazda3s assembled in Mexico. Mazda3s with the 2.5-liter engine are manufactured in Japan.
A Mazda spokesman declined to give future engine deployment plans for Mexico.
Source: [AutoNews.com]Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
The father of the original Toyota Prius has high expectations for the segment he helped create.”I foresee hybrid models pretty soon reaching 20 percent of global sales from about 13 percent to 14 percent now,” Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada told Automotive News Europe.
That number was unfathomable to Uchiyamada in 1993 when he was put in charge of a small Toyota Motor Corp. group called Project G21, which was tasked with creating a 21st century car.
“My team proposed to top management that we design a vehicle that would achieve one and a half times better fuel consumption than anything that existed before,” Uchiyamada said. Toyota’s top management wasn’t satisfied and told the Project G21 team: “Double it. You are not being ambitious enough,” the 67-year-old executive recounted during a recent visit to Milan, Italy. Twenty-one years and more than 6 million Toyota and Lexus hybrids later, Uchiyamada knows he and his team achieved their mission.
While hybrids are key players in the U.S. and Japanese markets they remain niche products in Europe. Combined sales of gasoline-electric, diesel-electric and plug-in hybrids in Europe rose more than 40 percent last year to 214,237 units, according to JATO Dynamics, but that resulted in an overall market share of less than 2 percent. To put it another way, Toyota’s 2013 U.S. sales for the Prius (234,228) topped the overall volume in Europe last year. The reason is that many diesel powertrains offered in Europe can match or beat the fuel economy of a hybrid at a lower starting price.
Despite the struggles in Europe, Uchiyamada is so bullish on hybrids that he said his sales prediction excludes the plug-in hybrid, which is a technology that Volkswagen Group, which ranked second to Toyota in global sales last year, is betting on heavily. During an interview with Automotive News Europe sister publication Automobilwoche last year, VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn said that of all the alternative powertrains being developed for today’s cars “the plug-in hybrid has the greatest potential.” VW Group plans a number of models with the powertrain, including the Audi A3 E-tron that debuts this year.
The Toyota chairman, who started at the company in 1969, declined to give a separate forecast for plug-in hybrids, adding that Toyota is “closely watching what our competitors are doing.”
One factor that Uchiyamada sees holding back plug-in hybrids is their cost because of the initial low volumes. “Suppliers need higher volumes to slash costs of components specific to plug-in models, including batteries that should be bigger and more capable than the ones used in traditional hybrids,” he said. Globally, Toyota and Lexus sell 25 hybrids. Only one is a plug-in model.
When discussed today, the development of the Prius seems like a smoothly executed project that is ready to be chronicled as a success story in business management books, but the car’s birth was challenging, Uchiyamada said. Toyota unveiled a concept model that had an early version of its gasoline-hybrid powertrain at the 1995 Tokyo auto show. Uchiyamada’s team was encouraged by the positive reception given to their research project. At the same time, he was nervous because participating in the show meant that the only existing complete prototype of the vehicle was out of the lab for almost three weeks.
Once the concept model was back, Uchiyamada wanted to get the car running. What followed was a true nightmare. “For 49 days in November through December, the car did not move at all. I could not sleep very well during that period. Finally, near the end of the year, we got the car to run — but only for 500 meters!” he remembered. Uchiyamada and his team solved that problem and today Toyota is on its third generation of the Prius. The car’s evolution makes Uchiyamada wonder whether people should still refer to him as the father of the Prius: “Maybe I am the grandfather by now.”
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