Why Are Toyotas Not So Popular in Europe?

Toyota is one of the major car brands globally, selling millions of cars around the world. In other continents around the globe, Toyota cars are among the bestselling. However, when it comes to Europe Toyotas struggle to compete with European car brand like Volkswagen.

The year 2020 sales figures show that Volkswagen sold 1.34 million in Europe. In the same year, Toyota sold just 648,000 cars in Europe. For such a global brand, it’s surprising that Toyota isn’t popular in Europe.

Several reasons contribute to making Toyotas not popular. We are going to examine some of them.

Reasons Why Toyotas Are Not Popular

Cheaper European Cars

There are many European cars in all the classes of Toyota cars that offer the same things Toyota cars have or even more at a lower price. An example is the 2017 Volkswagen Passat compared to the 2017 Toyota Camry.

The Passat has a base price of $22,440, compared to the Camry’s $23,070. That’s despite the Passat having more standard features like a rearview camera, dual-zone climate control, more safety features, larger cargo space, and a more powerful engine.

The fact that European car brands offer what Toyota cars can and at relatively lower prices mean that Toyotas won’t be popular in Europe.

High Import Tariffs

Toyota has six motor plants in Europe, making Corolla, Camry, Land Cruiser, Aygo, CH-R, Yaris, and Rav4. These European production lines account for eighty percent of all the Toyota cars made on the continent. 

The cars made in Europe often have parts imported from Japan, the other ones are also brought in from North America and Japan. These imported cars and components come into Europe with an ad valorem tax. Ad valorem tax is a type of tax in which a certain percentage of the product’s value is taxed.

The result is that it is already difficult for Toyota to favorably compete with brands like Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, and other European-based cars manufacturers whose parts are sourced mainly within the European continent.

In a competitive market where 5% additional costs affect the final price and consumer choice, this tariff is another reason Toyotas aren’t popular in Europe.

Engine Preference

Many Europeans love to drive cars with diesel engines because they consume less fuel, are more robust, and have fewer emissions when compared to petrol engines. In fact, in countries like Ireland and Italy, about 40% of the cars driven there have diesel-powered engines.

Toyotas have a hybrid petrol engine that has been so successful they have decided to phase out diesel engines. This decision means that for a continent where the majority of its car owners drive or seek to drive a diesel engine car, the Toyota isn’t the first choice for them.

Not being the first choice among consumers means your car won’t be popular even if you have a better engine.

Government Policies

The European Union has protectionist policies that favor their automobile industries. In Europe, the car industry is one of the highest employers. From Aston Martin to Skoda, there has never been a shortage of European car brands to produce what Toyotas can.

It is the government’s due to protect the car makers against Japanese competitors like Toyota, Nissan, and Mazda. Even though Toyota has car plants in the UK, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and other European countries, it is still viewed and treated as a Japanese carmaker.

Take the bailout during the pandemic. For instance, many European carmakers got financial assistance from their governments to battle the economic downturn. Government protection puts them in healthier stead to compete and affects the market share of Toyota in Europe.

Production Line

Like it has been said before, Toyota has six vehicle plants in Europe. Well, the Volkswagen Group has 118 plants located in twenty European countries. BMW has 31 plants. This high number of plants means that these European giants have a synchronized and streamlined production line within Europe that will allow them to reduce production costs.

Another advantage is that the presence of these plants in various countries within Europe makes feel genuinely European, and Europeans feel a sense of belonging with these countries. Something that Toyota does not have.

Resale Value

Toyotas don’t have a high resale value like Mercedes, Audi, BMW, or even Volvo in the European used car market. The reason for this is simple, popularity. Like new cars, Toyotas can’t compete with their European counterparts.

As used cars, there are a lot of European cars that offer better options like tech, more luxurious interior, safety features, a better engine. The availability and demand for these cars mean that there isn’t much need for Toyotas because of the perception that the cars are bland.

Like everything sold in the free market, high demand always results in a higher price. Low demand for Toyotas means they don’t command a high resale value.

Safety Features

European cars like the BMW, Volvo, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes Benz, and Audi have higher safety ratings than any Toyota car in 2020. The Volvo has always been the king of safety, and it has few equals when it comes to making a safe car.

Volvo’s Safe City features incorporate sensors and cameras to assist their cars to avoid collisions. Volvo also installed Steering Support in their vehicles to help drivers make wheel adjustments to avoid collisions. These safety features are standard in all Volvo cars.

Mercedes Benz, another European brand, is a leader in the semi-autonomous safety systems in cars. Some of their safety features include forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking are standard in all their vehicles.

Mercedes also has crosswind assist, rain-sensing wipers, traffic sign recognition, and driver condition monitor. Audi, the luxury brand of the Volkswagen, has safety features like night vision assist, active lane assist, adaptive cruise control, and many more. 

Toyotas also have some safety features, but they don’t have high enough safety ratings like their European counterparts. The result is these cars are more popular than Toyota.


Toyotas are pretty reliable, but on that same list are BMW and Audi. If the only reason you want people to buy your cars is that they have high-reliability scores, when your competitors offer a lot more, then your vehicles won’t be popular.

Bland Interior

Another thing that counts against Toyota is that most of their cars have bland and just functional interiors. When you compare the interior of most Toyota cars to the more popular brands in Europe, the difference is immediately apparent.

Toyotas value functionality above luxury. European carmakers have learned how to merge the two. Most car buyers want a car not just to take them from point A to B but to provide comfort and an enjoyable ride. Toyota doesn’t offer that.

Brand Prestige

European carmakers make some of the most luxurious cars on earth. Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Audi, Mercedes Benz, BMW, the list goes on. Europeans have numerous choices when it comes to prestigious cars to drive.

There is no way Toyotas can compete with European cars in terms of prestige. So it’s no better than what they already have. Why should Europeans consider it? Prestigious European car brands are another reason why Toyotas aren’t popular in Europe.

Worthy Competitors in Every Class

For every class of Toyota cars on the market, they are European car brands that are equal or better. Having adequate competition means there’s no reason to pick a Toyota car when European vehicles offer the same thing that Toyota has to offer.

Here are some European Rivals for some classes of Toyota cars

  • Toyota Camry has the Volkswagen Passat as a rival
  • Toyota Corolla has the Volkswagen Golf as a rival
  • Toyota Land Cruiser has the Land Rover Range Rover as a rival.
  • Toyota RAV$ has the Volvo XC60 as a rival.

These examples show that there’s no car category or classification where Toyota doesn’t have a rival.

How Does Toyota Fare Against Other Asian Car Makers in Europe?

Toyota fare pretty well in the European market against other Asian carmakers like Nissan, Hyundai, and Mazda. They are the biggest selling Asian car brand in the European market and targets Nissan and Hyundai. 

If Kia and Hyundai (siblings from the same car company) combine their car sales, they will replace Toyota. Here’s is a list of the bestselling Asian car brands in Europe as of September 2018.

  • Toyota 560,000
  • Hyundai 425,854
  • Nissan 411,278
  • Kia 385,818


On other continents like North America and Africa, Toyotas are one of the most popular, if not the most popular vehicles. The exception to this case is Europe. For one, the fact there are stronger European car brands, and government protection for these companies already work against Toyota.

However, there are some Toyota brands, like the Toyota Corolla, that are successful in Europe. On the whole, Toyotas struggle in sales and popularity in Europe. For the foreseeable future, this will continue to be the case.

Be sure to stay updated on the latest car trends as well—

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