Special Coverage

Geneva
Auto Show

GENEVA –Toyota Motor Europe later this year will introduce a new A-segment vehicle designed to appeal to buyers not attracted to the auto maker’s practical Aygo small car.

“They are two completely different vehicles,” Andrea Formica, senior vice president-TME, tells Ward’s of the Aygo and new iQ, shown in concept form at the auto show here.

“They don’t target the same customer,” he says. “The Aygo is simpler, basic transportation. The iQ is more sophisticated, refined, (an) aspirational vehicle for a different kind of customer.”

The tiny iQ is “the world’s smallest 4-seater,” Toyota says, noting three adults and a child can fit comfortably inside.

Formica says the iQ will be introduced in other markets outside of Europe, but a U.S. launch is not going to happen immediately.

“Not at the moment,” he says. “We’ll see how the American market evolves.”

Toyota expects to begin iQ production in Japan in the fourth quarter, with 100,000 units to be built in 2009.

Also not destined for the U.S. anytime soon is the Urban Cruiser small cross/utility vehicle. Positioned below the RAV4, the Urban Cruiser, like the iQ, aims at a trendier European consumer.

Based on the same platform as the new Scion xD in the U.S., the Urban Cruiser is less than 157.5 ins. (400 cm) long and emits carbon-dioxide emissions below 140 g/km, the auto maker says. The CUV is slated to go on sale in Europe in first-half 2009.

The addition of the iQ and Urban Cruiser will help Toyota meet its goal of selling a half million small cars in Europe by 2009.

Formica forsees the B-segment Yaris accounting for the vast majority of the 500,000 units, while the Aygo will continue to be the dominant A-segment model.

Toyota sold more than 370,000 Yaris and Aygo cars in Europe last year, he says.

Meanwhile, Formica uses the exhibition to provide an update on Toyota’s European business performance.

Despite tough industry conditions and a difficult start, Formica says TME is anticipating 5% growth this year, compared with the 1% sales uptick Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. predicts in the U.S.

Including the Lexus luxury brand, Toyota sold 1.24 million units in Europe last year, a 10% increase over 2006 and the 11th consecutive annual sales record for the auto maker in the region.

Although not as popular as in the U.S., Prius demand in Europe is growing rapidly, with sales up 40% last year to 32,000 units.

By 2009, Toyota foresees European sales of the Prius more than doubling to 70,000 nits.

Next month, Toyota expects cumulative Prius deliveries in the region to pass the 100,000-unit mark.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com