PARIS – Toyota is putting the emphasis on hybrids for Europe as it looks to meet tough carbon-dioxide-emissions regulations, satisfy buyer demand for fuel efficiency and continue to grow volume in the region.

Hybrids, not electric vehicles, are the better near-term answer to cleaner air and higher mileage, Toyota Europe President and CEO Didier Leroy says at the auto show here.

Toyota will sell 4,000 hybrid vehicles in Europe this year, with sales of gasoline- and battery-fueled vehicles more than doubling to 10,000 units next year, he says. “That’s more than any electric vehicle or range-extended vehicle on the market.”

Pointing to the new Prius Plug-In hybrid, Leroy says it is the “better way” for Europe than pure EVs because hybrids are less costly and don’t suffer range limitations – two concerns keeping buyers from purchasing EVs in big numbers.

“We believe it is a better solution to sell a higher number of hybrids than a few zero-emissions vehicles.”

In addition to the Prius lineup, Toyota is selling a hybrid Yaris, built here in France and will offer a hybrid version of its new U.K.-built Auris 5-door as well. The Auris also will be available with gasoline and diesel engines, and Toyota expects sales to be split equally among the three powertrains.

Another sign of its growing confidence in hybrid sales in Europe, the auto maker will offer a hybrid powertrain in the Auris Touring Sport wagon model. “This reflects our belief (that) hybrid is now a mainstream offering,” Leroy says.

Toyota is on a growth track here, with sales on target to surpass 2011 levels, despite the overall sluggish European market, and it expects to continue to increase volume next year, when it says hybrids will account for 15% of its total deliveries.

Leroy says Toyota’s midterm goal is to sell 1 million vehicles annually in Europe, and it wants to produce about 75% of the vehicles it sells within the region. Deliveries total 560,000 units so far in 2012, and its market share has inched upward to 4.5%.

Sales of the locally built Yaris have been particularly strong, he says, pointing to the 25% year-to-date gain on like-2011. Exports to North America begin in 2013, which will increase production further here.

“We’re growing again (in Europe),” Leroy says. “More importantly, we’re growing consistently and sustainably.”

dzoia@wardsauto.com