Product plans beyond 2018 are unconfirmed, a spokesperson said, but the plans will involve phasing out the Avensis, Verso and diesel RAV4 - in the case of the latter, HEV sales outsell the petrol/diesel models two to one. The third-largest automotive company increased its sales in Europe a year ago by 14%, while the auto market as a whole grew by far more modest - 3.4%.
"If there is one manufacturer that has taken advantage of "dieselgate" it is Toyota", said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Germany-based Centre for Automotive Research. In contrast, diesel made up less than 10% of registrations during the same year. More than 40 per cent of Toyota's European sales were hybrids past year, dominated by the C-HR's 80 per cent hybrid mix.
Beyond skin deep, Toyota chose to ditch diesel and opt for two hybrid versions instead. The numbers for the hybrid vehicles on the other hand have gone up considerably.
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Toyota doesn't now sell any diesel passenger cars in Australia, where hybrids account for less than 30 per cent of sales, and diesel continues to be available in the RAV4, HiLux and - exclusively - the Fortuner, Prado, LandCruiser and HiAce. Ford still backs diesel but sees it disappearing in some segments, according to Steven Armstrong, chief of the automaker's European operations.
In particular -after 20 years of hybrid leadership and more than 11 million global sales, including over 1.5 million units in Europe- the company is interested to learn from them as to how it can keep improving its hybrids and make them more attractive to new types of customers.
Having that focus ahead of the competition may have given Toyota an edge, but experts warn that maintaining the advantage is far from assured.
Volkswagen pledged past year to spend more than €34bn through 2022 to develop battery-powered and autonomous-driving technology, and it has plans to create electric versions of all 300 cars, trucks and buses sold by its dozen brands by the end of the next decade.
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