The opportunity to lead a major update programme for our Yaris model was an important milestone in the history of our European operations. Although we had been building the Yaris in France for some years, this new project saw our European R&D, product planning and design teams taking the lead for the first time on a global vehicle, which was successfully brought to the market in 2014.
A global project, led by Europe
Toyota has handed much of the responsibility for shaping the new Yaris to its European operations, reflecting the strength and quality of the B-segment market in the region. Notably, for the first time that changes developed for the Yaris in Europe will be adopted directly for its sister Vitz model, manufactured in Japan.
Going much deeper than a simple mid-life “facelift,” the €90 million programme saw the introduction of more than 900 new parts to improve the car’s design, dynamic performance and safety.
The car’s new look, with significant changes to the front and rear styling, has been created at Toyota’s ED2 design studio in the South of France.
The Yaris has a strong European heritage, having been manufactured at Toyota Motor Manufacturing France's Valenciennes factory since 2001. Production passed three million units in 2016, with cars not only supplied throughout Europe but also sent for export around the world, including Africa, North America and Middle East markets in Asia.
Serkan Karaman was the senior project manager in charge of the development programme for the Yaris at our R&D centre near Brussels and he explains the changes that this model brought about in Toyota Europe’s way of working.
“In the past, project management for a big change of this type was always done in Japan. Of course, we gave input from Europe and were given specific tasks to be carried out here, but the schedule was set by Toyota in Japan.
Europe was able to take the lead in the development of a global vehicle. We were truly in the driver’s seat and the fact that we were working in the most demanding region of the world for this type of vehicle gave us an excellent starting position.”
Karaman’s team produced a blueprint for how the new car could be as competitive as possible, based on customer feedback and benchmarking it against its strongest rival models in Europe. Details were then adapted to suit other markets where it would be sold, such as the USA and Japan.
Our European planning, design and engineering groups worked in close collaboration, helped by the fact they are all located near to each other in Belgium and France and could make quick decisions. Importantly, this also made it easier to keep much of the original body designs in the finished production car.