Despite reports of disappointing sales numbers, Toyota's British-build Auris hatchback is exceeding its targets according to the company's European chief.

Tadashi Arashima, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Europe, said: "I don't know where people have been getting their figures from, but together with sales of the Corolla saloon we are ahead of last year."

The Auris was launched earlier this year to replace the long running Corolla hatchback although the saloon model - also built in the UK - retains the old name.

Arashima said there were no plans currently to change the name of the saloon and although the company vies with General Motors as the world's largest car maker, there is still work to be done on improving the brand's image particularly in Europe.

He added: "We are not where we want to be yet, we are looking to improve our dealer network, customer satisfaction and quality even further. We also want to be seen to be doing the best we can in terms of the environment."

That means continuing with hybrid vehicles, such as the petrol-electric Prius, until new technologies can be perfected and sold at a reasonable price.

"We are looking at various alternatives for the future with electric vehicles and fuel cells but we have to make sure the cost and quality are right. In the short term hybrid vehicles are the most viable."