Car designed for Europe to return to Japan

In an unusual move, Toyota has announced that a car originally designed to meet the needs of European drivers will be launched in its domestic market.

The Japanese automaker will start selling its Avensis station wagon in Japan from September 19 and has set a modest initial sales target of 300 units a month - although that will rise if the vehicle proves as popular in Japan as it appears to have done in Europe.

While other Japanese companies are importing their cars into the domestic market, it is normally because they have set up production facilities overseas, where key costs (notably labor) are significantly lower - Nissan, for example, produces vehicles at facilities in Thailand that are then shipped to Japan.

It is far more unusual for a Japanese carmaker to introduce a car designed for a completely different market to consumers at home.

"Since its 1997 launch in Europe, the Avensis has developed an exceptional reputation as a Toyota-brand, European vehicle for its cruising performance, powerful design and quiet ride," the company said in a statement.

"To meet the needs of Japanese car buyers who prefer European styling, Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd. will produce the model from July through October for sales in Japan."

However, the vehicle will be up against some stiff competition when it arrives in Japan, including the Primera and Juke from Nissan and the Accord wagon from Honda.

The Avensis, which is now in its third generation, has apparently proven popular among European consumers due to its smooth handling on uneven road surfaces and winding roads, athough those requirements are likely to be less important in Japan, where the spacious interior and cargo space will be a stronger selling point.

The 2.0-litre vehicle is being assembled at Toyota's Burnaston plant in Britain and will retail for Y2.5 million (€21,500) after being shipped to Japan.

JR/NH

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