Award-winning Toyota Yaris Put To The Test

Toyota Europe’s Manufacturing EVP Marvin Cooke looks back at an unusual launch.

 Recently revealed full year 2020 sales figures have once more confirmed that the Toyota Yaris continues to conquer hearts and minds across Europe. One in five Toyota customers opts for a Yaris and segment share increased year-on-year to reach 8.4%. Buyers are, amongst others, attracted by the impressive segment-leading passive and active safety features as standard. This compact car comes for example with a standard fitment of centre airbags – a first in the key European B-segment. It should come as no surprise that demand is outstripping current production capacity.

Challenging 2020

Whilst 2020 shows outstanding sales results, it was also a year in which the Yaris production at Toyota Motor Manufacturing France (TMMF) was seriously put to the test. TME Executive Vice President Marvin Cooke, who oversees Manufacturing across Europe, looks back:

Mid March, COVID-19 was spreading throughout Europe. On March 18, we took the decision to bring all our plants in to a synchronised stop in line with the abrupt slow-down of the market and the restrictions put in place by governments. Five weeks later, TMMF was the first Toyota plant in Europe to restart its activities under a stringent set of health and safety protocols, co-created with our team members and their unions. Everyone was dedicated to ensure the run-out build of the previous generation and the timely start of the production of the new, fourth generation Yaris.” Marvin Cooke, TME Executive Vice President Manufacturing.

‘Ever-better’ approach

At many stages, the preparations for the new Yaris have been challenging as production of Yaris 3 continued in parallel with a large plant make-over to prepare for Yaris 4. Cooke remembers:

In the typical Toyota kaizen spirit, the question ‘How to manufacture an ever-better car?’ was top of mind. The efforts we made can best be summarized as a smart combination of extensive people training, automation with a human touch and new manufacturing techniques.”

With many customers choosing a Yaris bi-tone version, a lot of attention went into boosting the capacity for this option in the Paint shop by shortening the process time. Here, more robots allow for most of the cars to only have to pass through the paint booth once instead of twice. Adding to customers’ peace of mind, a completely new and automated process was engineered to apply the anti-corrosion coating to the underbody and more easily reach less accessible cavities.

Growing within existing boundaries

Although some shops were expanded, with the Plastics shop even doubling in space, the overall compactness of the 180 km² plant was safeguarded – a critical aspect of TMMF since Day One, and one that makes the plant in Northern France particularly efficient.

With the new Yaris, a greater number of plastics parts are made inhouse. Main benefits for the company – quality output control up, logistics costs down – have been paired with societal gains thanks to reduced transportation emissions.

The new plastics paint line has also been designed with the environment in mind.

Yaris takes Europe by storm, gets a second manufacturing site and a crossover sister

Yaris success is deeply rooted in Europe. TMMF historically is home to the Yaris production and has seen cumulative production rise to over four million units, spanning four generations since its establishment in 2001.

“End of January marked the 20th anniversary and the future is looking bright. This year, the French plant will add a second model, the Yaris Cross, which is built on the same GA-B platform as the Yaris. As a result, production capacity will reach a record 300,000 units.”