Japanese auto giant Toyota is putting together plans to increase dramatically its share of the European car market.

The group has informed dealers it will set an ambitious sales target of around 1.2 million units by 2010. This figure – yet to be finalised – is almost double last year’s European sales of 644,000, and 50% higher than the goal of 800,000 set for 2004.

Assuming competitors’ sales remain the same, such figures would see Toyota overtake Citroën and Mercedes-Benz to reach eighth position in the European auto marque league. It would, however, lag by some distance market leader Volkswagen, which last year sold 1.8m units under its own brand and 3.3m across the group.

Toyota is in an upbeat mood, having increased European sales by 13% over the first nine months of 2002 (compared with a 4% drop in the overall market). For the first time, the group is expected to enter the black in Europe this year.

Moreover, on Wednesday, Toyota posted a 90% leap in net profits for its fiscal first half (ended September) to a record ¥553 billion ($4.5bn; €4.6bn; £2.9bn), leaving it on course for the highest full-year earnings ever reported by an auto firm.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff