Toyota Motor Company was the number one automobile manufacturer in Japan, the third largest manufacturer in the world by unit sales, 5.5 million units or one every six seconds, but number eight in sales in continental Europe. The global auto mobile manufacturing industry, like many industries, had been experiencing continued consolidation in recent years, as margins were squeezed, economics of scale and scope pursued and global sales slowed
Toyota was no different. It had continued to rationalize its manufacturing along regional lines and to increase the amount of local manufacturing in North America. In 2001, over 60% of North American sales were locally manufactured. But European sales were nowhere close to this yet. Most of the automobile and truck manufacturing for Europe was still done is Japan. In 2001, only 24% of the autos sold in Europe were manufactured in Europe, including the UK, the remainder being imported from Japan.