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Toyota expects sales to rise in Europe in '07

From Reuters| March 06,2007

Toyota Motor Corp. said today it expects to increase its European sales in 2007 by about 100,000 units to 1.22 million vehicles, including its Lexus brand, for its 11th straight year of record sales.

In 2006, Japan's top automaker boosted its Toyota brand sales in Europe by 11 percent to almost 1.1 million units and doubled sales for the Lexus brand to 51,000 units.

"We are already off to a fast start for 2007 with January to February sales up over 25 percent," said Tadashi Arashima, president of Toyota Motor Europe, at a news conference in Geneva ahead of the annual auto show.

Toyota predicts gasoline-electric hybrids will account for 45,000 of the 1.22 million vehicles expected to be sold in 2007, including a hybrid version of the Lexus flagship sedan LS to be launched this year.

Arashima said Toyota would aim to sell 150,000 units of the new Auris sedan, the successor to the popular Corolla model.

Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe, speaking at the same event, said the automaker was not interested in buying all or part of the Chrysler group, for which parent DaimlerChrysler AG is examining various options.

Watanabe said Toyota is open to discussing cooperation with Chrysler in fields such as research and development, but added "as of today we have not received any such approaches."

Regarding development of an ultra-low-cost car, mainly for emerging markets, Watanabe said progress was being made and Toyota would soon be ready to build a prototype of the model.

He added that no decision had been made on where or when the prototype would be built.

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