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Five strategic reasons for Toyota’s success in Lille Region

13 Aug 2014 | A region on the move, Mobility

Toyota has been present in Lille Region since 1998, when it first invested in a factory that employed 2,000 workers and produced 150,000 vehicles a year. In 2014 the plant will turn out 230,000 vehicles, and it now employs a workforce of 4,000. Learn the real reasons why the Japanese automaker chose our region—and why it has succeeded here.

In the late 1990s Toyota was scouting for a new production site in Europe. With one plant in the UK and another in Turkey, the Japanese automaker needed a facility that could manufacture the Yaris—then a brand-new model—and sell it on the European market. When the search led to France and then to northern France, Toyota executives chose Lille Region for five key reasons.

1/ Strategic location

Toyota’s first priority was to position its plant in the heart of the European market. “And being in the heart of your market means being close to your customers,” says Alain Van Vyve, Vice President Administration at Toyota in Onnaing . Lille Region’s strategic location was a powerful factor in the automaker’s decision. Located in the heart of Europe’s largest consumer market, the region is at the center of a pool of 78 million consumers with disposable income of €1,500 billion—all within a 300-km radius.

2/Outstanding infrastructure

Lille Region is a major transport hub, with a coastline that opens onto the world and a port complex that handles import-export traffic with ease. What’s more, its rail infrastructure offers access to five major European cities in under three hours, and it has the most concentrated road network in France, serving all areas of the region and providing access to major European highways.

“From road to rail to waterways, the infrastructure […] enables us to get parts in, but also to deliver products easily to neighboring countries. That’s important because […] the Toyota plant in Valenciennes exports 84% of its output to markets outside France, and 75% to neighboring countries. Together these factors made Valenciennes an extremely promising candidate for investment.”

3/ Automotive expertise

Lille Region ranks second in France’s car industry, accounting for 30% of total French auto manufacturing in 2012. Nearly two-thirds of Europe’s automakers and most of its automotive subcontractors and equipment manufacturers are less than a day’s drive away, creating a stable ecosystem that weighed heavily in Toyota’s decision to locate in Valenciennes.

4/ Qualified labor pool

Lille Region's strong automotive culture means a large pool of qualified workers who can meet the industry’s requirements. Toyota was looking for a pool of potential workers familiar with automaking—and found them in Northern France.

5/ Strong support public authorities

“I think one big reason we’ve settled in here [in Lille Region] is the strong support we’ve received from local government. In the beginning, all of the government agencies and other players were extremely active in helping Toyota locate here, and they’ve continued to support us—they're just as active today. Each time we have a new project or a new question, each time we need help from a government agency, we get it. We’ve become an integral part of the regional economy and regional life,” adds Alain Van Vyve.

For all of these reasons, Toyota continues to invest in Lille Region today.

“Over the past 13 years, we’ve gained expertise, experience and skills, and ultimately that enabled us to gain the trust of Toyota Motor Corporation, our parent company in Japan. Today we’re making cars not just for our own market in Europe but for all of North America and other major export markets.”


Watch our interview with Alain Van Vyve

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