1. About Us
  2. Toyota in Europe
  3. Our journey in Europe
  4. The 1960s

The 1960s

Our arrival in Europe  
The 1960s was a decade of transformation for Toyota. Our first entry into the European market paved the way for the major sales and manufacturing businesses we operate across the continent today.  

How it all began

We began to explore the potential of selling our vehicles in markets outside Japan in the 1950s, shipping them in kit form for local manufacturers to assemble in countries around the globe, from Latin America to Australia. In 1960, two Toyota Crowns reached Malta via the Middle East. Two years later, two Toyota Coronas (with the Tiara nameplate) were tested in Finland. However, all changed when the visionary Walther Krohn visited the 1962 Tokyo Motor Show. 

First European distributor

Walter Krohn was the president of Erla Auto Import, a Danish car retail business. Visiting the 1962 Tokyo Motor Show, he was impressed by the Toyota Crown and thought it would appeal to European motorists. His vision led to Erla Auto becoming our first official European distributor, with exclusive sales rights for Denmark, Sweden and Norway. In 1963 the first 400 Crowns were shipped from Japan.   

A stir in London

Krohn’s instincts proved right. Over the next few years, further agreements were reached with commercial partners keen to introduce the Toyota name to the European car-buying public. Louwman & Parqui became distributors for the Netherlands in 1964. The following year, Pride & Clarke caused a stir in the UK when it put the Corona on its stand at the London Motor Show. British sales were launched soon afterwards.  

Corona and Corolla lead the way

The introduction of the first-generation Toyota Corolla in 1966 added extra appeal to our profile as a new and intriguing player in the market. Our cars had to have big showroom appeal, because their pricing reflected the fact that they had to be shipped from Japan. The cost was also pushed higher by local customs duties and sales tariffs. But this disadvantage was balanced by the equipment features included as standard with the Corona and Corolla, such as a reversing light, electric screen washers, and cabin carpets. Both cars were also highly reliable, which helped to reduce day-to-day running costs.  

Further expansion

Our early European expansion focused on markets where there was little or no national motor manufacturing industry, such as Greece (from 1965), Switzerland (1966) and Belgium (1966). Towards the end of the decade we were represented in the home territory of all the major auto manufacturers, including France, Italy and Germany. 

First assembly in Europe

As exports to Europe increased rapidly, we realised we needed our own base on the continent. In 1970 we opened the first Toyota Motor Sales office in Brussels. It was the forerunner of today’s Toyota Motor Europe. Around the same time we also signed the first agreement for Toyota vehicles to be assembled here. It signalled the start of a partnership with Salvador Caetano in Portugal that continues to this day. It also marked the first step towards the major manufacturing presence we went on to establish through the 1990s. 

The 60s in Europe