The Japanese manufacturer's move follows the end of its 'gentleman's agreement' with the European Union, and the termination of EU import quotas at the start of 2000.
This will see Toyota increase its European presence as it bids to achieve sales of 800,000 cars across Europe by 2005 - a sharp rise on the 600,000 vehicles it sold in 1999, although the company claims it is already one year ahead of its business plan.
Last year Toyota sold about 140,000 units into the European fleet sector, including limited daily rental volumes, and has bold plans for its corporate sales as it develops a dealer network in southern Europe, particularly Italy, Spain and France.
'Our target is to increase our fleet share of our total volume,' said Kari Skogster, TME's general manager of market development.
In other markets such as Ireland and Greece the company's brand strengths of value-for-money and reliability have paid dividends in both fleet and retail sales, and it has a reasonable foothold in north European markets such as Germany and the UK.
With manufacturing plants in France and the UK, Toyota is increasingly becoming a European manufacturer, and revealed plans at Geneva to develop a new generation of diesel engines for European markets.
But its international fleet co-ordination team remains small scale, a consequence of the company's traditionally decentralised approach to fleet.
Skogster said Toyota had historically left the fleet sector to its local distributors and importers, adding 'but now there is a clear tendency in Europe for pan-European tendering and procurement and that is something we are trying to prepare for.
'Fleet is an opportunity for us to increase volume, but before rushing into the fleet market we have to have a basic infrastructure. We have to be ready to face buy-back deals, and we need disposal channels in place to handle them.' (April 2000)