Toyota will not freeze out Iceland, bets on Russia bounce

November 3, 2009

The world’s biggest carmaker, Toyota, will not follow the road of McDonald’s and abandon Iceland even though it is selling ‘very few’ cars there at the moment and its distributor has been seized by the banks as its owner went belly-up, Toyota Motor Europe President and CEO Tadashi Arashima told the Reuters Auto Summit in Paris on Tuesday.

“We have a big market share there, of 25 percent, and it is good for our after-sales,” Arashima said.

The banks are trying to sell the distributor but Toyota does not plan to take ownership like it does in its key European markets of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, and some Scandinavian countries.

Arashima said he believes the Russian market will recover sooner than many think, after the west European markets but well before the rest of East Europe — in 2011 or 2012.

In West Europe he does not see signs yet of a return of consumer confidence leading people to buy more expensive items such as cars and the showrooms remain quiet.

Europe traditionally had a low priority for Toyota, which mainly focused on the big U.S. market, and Arashima still has problems convincing  headquarters in Toyota City that Europeans like diesel engines which are far from popular in Japan and the States.

It now produces cars in Britain and France and makes some 60 to 70 percent of its sales locally.

But the Lexus luxury brand is not really taking off in Europe as it competes with German rivals that have diesel, and has rather big engines that Europeans have started to dislike.

In the U.S. however, big is still beautiful. “Even though Americans drive slowly they still love big engines,” Arashima said.

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McDonald’s didn’t really abandon Iceland. The same company is still running the same restaurants with almost the same menus using the name Metro. They just got rid of the McDonald’s franchise because it meant they had to import all ingredients which was too expensive given the current exchange rates. The change from McDonald’s to Metro took 5 hours.

Posted by Daniel | Report as abusive