Toyota Motor Europe (TME) sales fell 10% to 1,119,521 last year.

The full-year tally was 1,074,281 Toyota vehicles (off 9% year on year) and 45,240 Lexus models (down 16%), for a market share of 5.3% (down 0.3 percentage points versus 2007). TME aims to grow market share by 0.7 percentage points to 6.0% in 2009.

Combined Toyota and Lexus hybrid sales grew 18% to 57,819.

TME built 694,921 vehicles last year, down 14%, 797,917 engines (-8%) and 581,487 transmissions (-0.3%).

The mostly French-built Yaris (Vitz) remained the top selling nameplate in TME’s line though sales were off 10% to 239,155 vehicles in 2008 (it has now been on sale almost unchanged for several years).

Toyota models showing growth included the Turkish-made Corolla sedan, up 39% to 119,120 vehicles, and the recently updated V8 Land Cruiser line (+81% to 19,999).

The outgoing Prius (the third generation finally made an official debut in Detroit this week) nonetheless posted a 29% rise to 41,495 units and TME last year passed 175,000 cumulative European hybrid sales.

Lexus volume was dominated by the RX SUV line (17,400 vehicles, up 16%), itself in turn ruled by the hybrid RX 400h (down 10% to 11,923 units). Hybrids accounted for 36% of total Lexus sales (16,324 vehicles) last year. As well as the new Prius, a redesigned RX range will be launched in Europe this year.

‘We always anticipated that 2008 would be a difficult year for Toyota and Lexus, given that we planned for fewer model launches. This, coupled with global market upheaval, significantly impacted our sales volume and production levels,’ said TME head Tadashi Arashima.

‘We cannot deny tough times ahead, but we can look forward to 12 Toyota and 4 Lexus model launches this year. Each vehicle will bring enhanced environmental credentials and driving performance – capitalising on the benefits of hybrid technology or, in the case of many petrol and diesel cars, Toyota Optimal Drive.

“The mix will also ensure that fleet-average CO2 emissions fall below the 140g mark this year.

“The quality of this unprecedented product offensive will help us grow market share in 2009 and build a new platform for long-term, sustainable growth,’ he claimed.

Toyota had to make a number of production cuts in Europe as demand fell, particularly in the second half.

“TME continues to monitor the situation and make adjustments to ensure the efficiency of its operations eg via reductions in line speed, shorter working times per shift, shut-down days, and one-shift operations on some lines. Such measures allow TME to respond flexibly and swiftly to the dramatic decline in demand for new vehicles, while ensuring every effort is made to offer secure employment to permanent Toyota employees in Europe,” the Brussells-based unit said.

Russia was TME’s largest national market in 2008 with 204,849 vehicles sold – up 30% versus 2007; market share also grew by 0.8 percentage points to 7.0%.

The United Kingdom (125,519; -13%) was next, followed by Italy (113,172; -22%).

TME posted its strongest individual market growth in Ukraine with sales of 25,605 vehicles, up 88%, and it also increased market share by 1.5 percentage points to 4%. Positive growth was also recorded in Poland (37,524 vehicles; +3%), Finland (22,697 vehicles; +5%) and the Czech Republic / Slovakia (10,151 vehicles; +12%).

On 1 January, TME established a national marketing and sales company (NMSC) in Kazakhstan and assumed responsibility for the Caucasus NMSC, expanding its network to 31 NMSCs in 56 countries.