In 1965 Toyota made a modest entry into the UK car market, its arrival marked by a small four-car stand at that year’s motor show. Today, Toyota has not only sold almost three million vehicles in Britain, it builds them here, too.
Although a great deal has changed, there remains a constant theme in Toyota’s business that is as true today as it was 50 years ago, as Paul Van der Burgh, Toyota (GB) President and Managing Director, explained: “Toyota entered the UK market with the aim of providing better cars and better service, even if those weren’t the words used back then. But ever since, Toyota has stood out for giving the customer something better – better equipment, better reliability and better service.”
Pride and Clark was the original UK importer and distributor, a South London family firm that launched its enterprise after John Pride travelled to the Far East to see the developing Japanese car industry for himself. His faith in Toyota was shared by a handful of car retailers who set up the first Toyota showrooms, at first with just a single model line – Corona – to offer their customers.
Business prospered as the range of vehicles grew, not least with introduction of the first Corolla in 1966. The name Toyota (GB) Ltd was adopted in 1967 and by 1980 200,000 cars had been sold, securing its position as a leading player in Britain’s car market.
Nine years later Toyota announced the UK as the location for a European manufacturing centre. Toyota Manufacturing UK’s Burnaston car plant in Derbyshire and Deeside engine factory in North Wales came on stream in 1992 and have benefited from more than £2 billion investment in technology, skills and jobs. They continue to provide valuable opportunities for more than 200 supplier businesses.
TMUK also has the distinction of being the Toyota’s first hybrid vehicle manufacturing centre in Europe, building Auris Hybrid models since 2010.
Tony Walker, TMUK Deputy Managing Director, said: “All the work we have done so far has created a solid foundation for the future. The next exciting step for TMUK is to develop our skills ready for the adoption of TNGA – Toyota New Global Architecture. It’s not just about new products, it’s a new approach to making them. We have plenty of work ahead of us to be ready to adopt the new way of working by the end of the decade, but I strongly believe that, as the last 25 years have shown, we will be ready.”
In its 50th year in the UK, Toyota has already launched new Avensis and Auris models – all built at Burnaston. Later this year it will also begin marketing the first of its Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicles here, opening a new chapter in zero emissions driving with technology the drivers of those first Corona saloons could never have imagined.
While Toyota’s focus is on the future and the development of ever-better cars, it honours the achievements of some its influential models of the past in a heritage fleet, maintained by Toyota (GB). The classic line-up includes an original Corona saloon, the famous Corolla AE86 that helped inspire today’s GT86 coupe, a first-generation RAV4 and one of the earliest British-built models, a 1992-vintage Carina E.
Facts from 50 years of Toyota in the UK
- In 1965 the Corona wasn’t big, it wasn’t flashy, but it was the first Toyota to be sold officially in the UK.
- Pride and Clark were once a leading name in motorcycle sales and parts, then this South London firm made it big with cars as Toyota’s official UK importer.
- Clocking up 50 years makes Toyota the Japanese car maker with the longest unbroken history in the UK.
- 1967: the year of peace, love and the introduction of the name Toyota (GB) Ltd.
- Today we are 100 per cent a Toyota-owned business, but from 1978 to the turn of the century, Toyota (GB) was part of the Inchcape Group.
- Toyota models are made all over the world and any that are shipped for sale in the UK enter the country down Bristol way, at Portbury Docks or through Grimsby.
- Pierre Fox was a wily businessman – he opened Toyota’s first franchised dealership in the UK, Fox’s Toyota, near Orpington in Kent.
- Our HQ building near Epsom was purpose-built – people say it looks a bit like Tracy Island. We moved in in 2000 along with our colleagues from Toyota Financial Services.
- The new millennium saw Toyota (GB) PLC become completely owned by Toyota Motor Corporation.
- We don’t sell Corolla here any more, but it’s still the most popular model range we’ve put in our showrooms, with more than 560,000 sold between 1966 and 2008.
- Yaris is bidding to surpass Corolla’s achievement; it is our best-selling current model, racking up more than 485,000 sales since 1999.
- Our silver jubilee didn’t feature a street party; instead we hosted a charity ball at the Grosvenor House Hotel, in the presence of the Princess Royal.
- If you want to judge us by our market performance we can tell you Toyota took a 3.8 per cent share of UK new car sales last year. Add in Lexus and the figure is 4.3 per cent.
- We’ve sponsored and supported all kinds of groups, individuals and organisations over the years, among them a jockey, a youth orchestra and an aerobatic team. This year we’re even giving a helping hand to a testicle-shaped balloon promoting men’s health awareness.
- A silver coach line and specially embroidered seat upholstery: the 500 special edition Carina models launched to mark Toyota’s silver jubilee in the UK looked the part.
- Toyota has been making vehicles in the UK since 1992 when we opened our engine factory at Deeside in North Wales and Burnaston car plant in Derbyshire. They are both operated by Toyota Manufacturing UK – TMUK to its friends.
- The first British-built Toyota was the Carina E, predecessor of today’s Avensis. And the E? That’s for Excellence in Europe.
- Proud fact: Toyota selected the UK as the location for its (and the motor industry’s) first hybrid vehicle production centre in Europe. The original Auris Hybrid was first produced here in 2010.
- Did anyone mention Lexus? It’s been part of Toyota GB’s responsibility since we launched the marque here in 1990.
- We are grass roots green, having forged a UK-first partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to re-landscape our HQ and factory sites to promote plant and wildlife diversity.
- Remember 2007? We do, that’s the year we achieved our highest UK sales figures (so far), with more than 143,000 Toyota and Lexus vehicles sold.
- Britain did its bit for helping the Toyoda family achieve their vehicle manufacturing dreams. The sale of its automatic loom technology to Platt Brothers of Oldham in 1929 brought in the money it needed to set up in the auto business.
- Owzat? We’re doing our bit to help bring home the Ashes this summer as an official partner to the England and Wales Cricket Board.
- We like a laugh and we believe in helping others. Toyota (GB) joined its dealer network, Toyota Manufacturing UK and other UK-based Toyota businesses as an official partner to Red Nose Day in 2015, raising more than £700,000 for Comic Relief.
- Toyota is a big player in British car manufacturing. All the Avensis models and all the Auris hatchbacks and wagons are made at the Burnaston plant in Derbyshire.
- A detailed search for the oldest UK-registered Toyota has come up with two original Corona saloons, still on the road and nearing 50 years old.
We’ve raced and rallied with great success, including BTCC championships with both Corolla and Carina.