Toyota Europe CEO Johan van Zyl wants the C-HR “to show a different face” for a brand that is not known for its risk-taking designs. The compact SUV is also key to the company’s goal of boosting hybrid sales to half of its total European volume by 2020. Van Zyl explained why in a recent interview with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Nick Gibbs.
What are your aspirations for the C-HR in Europe?
We are quite bullish. We think the driving dynamics are very good. The styling is strong – some may even say it is polarizing – but that is what we wanted to do. We wanted to show a different face.
How many C-HRs do you expect to sell in Europe?
Between 50,000 and 100,000.
What percentage of C-HR sales will be the hybrid variant?
We think 70 percent for Europe. Auris hybrid sales are already about 60 percent in western Europe.
Toyota wants hybrids to account for half of its European sales by 2020. Where are you at now?
Currently we are at 31 percent. As more competitors enter with hybrids, that will help to spread the knowledge and understanding of the technology.
Van Zyl: “Our hybrids give us a good differentiator.”
Your predecessor, Didier Leroy, wanted hybrid versions of every model in the range. Will that still happen?
That is still what we are targeting. [Offering a hybrid in] the A segment is very difficult to achieve, but our stance is still every segment.
Will Toyota add a midsize hybrid?
The Prius is compact-midsize. It has legs in two segments. Where we are competing with the Lexus brand we already have it.
What percentage of diesels do you expect to sell in 2020?
We think conventional gasoline engines would be stronger for us. Diesel would probably be about 15 percent, down from 25 percent now.
Do you only offer BMW diesels now?
No. The Hilux [pickup truck] range uses our diesels, as does the Land Cruiser.
When does the BMW contract end?
There’s no set date. It can be extended based on what we want to do. It also depends on future regulatory requirements.
You’re developing a sports car with BMW. Will that have the Supra badge?
We can’t comment on the sports car concept yet, but the project is on time. I also can’t talk about the name, but Supra has been a very strong Toyota sports car brand.
Will we see more European-tailored models using the Toyota New Global Architecture?
The TNGA platform offers a lot of flexibility in terms of model design. The underbody is standardized, but the upper body can be different. A good example is the C-HR. It has been designed and styled in Europe so it’s more European but it’s also a global model.
The C-HR will also be sold in the U.S. Where will it be made for that market?
It’s not decided yet. Primary production for Europe is in Turkey. Turkey is the first plant outside of Japan to produce a TNGA model. It is also the first plant that is producing the C-HR.
Does the Avensis have a future?
We will continue Avensis production [in the UK] as long as we can, then we will review. It will depend how the segment behaves in terms of growth and size and then we will make our decision. We see the market moving very strongly toward SUVs and therefore we will also move more and more in that direction.
Is Toyota Europe still making a profit?
Yes, it is. The big driver is selling in those segments we see as profitable and, of course, the model mix. Our hybrids give us a good differentiator, which gives us profit. There’s also a strong drive toward cost reduction.
How has Toyota bucked the downward sales trend in Russia?
We are not selling at the bottom end of the market. We’re selling bigger vehicles such as SUVs. Lexus is also doing very well. And, we have a very strong dealer network.
Is Russia poised for a turnaround?
I think the market will be flat for some time. But it all depends on what happens to the ruble and the oil price.
Automotive News Europe