Toyota Motor Europe is claiming another record year for its Toyota and Lexus brands in 2001, despite what it describes as "difficult market conditions and ever-tougher competition".

Japan's largest car maker delivered 666,035 vehicles – 23,837 Lexus and 642,198 Toyota - for unit volume 1.6% more than the 655,823 shifted in 2000.

The top three best-selling models were the Japanese- and, from mid-2001, French-built Yaris [aka Vitz/Echo] with 241,045 units, the UK-built Avensis (115,446) and the UK, Turkish and Japanese-built Corolla (95,238).

Currently, Toyota is currently number one in passenger car sales in Norway, Finland and Iceland.

The company achieved the same 24-country European market share -- 3.7 percent -- in 2001 as for the previous year but is confident new model rollouts such as an all-new Corolla line and an expanded Lexus line-up will give a boost.

"We are clearly in line to achieve our goal of five percent market share in Europe by 2005 at the latest,” said Toyota Motor Marketing and Engineering chief operating officer Dr. Takis Athanasopoulos.