The Toyota Yaris has little in common with the BMW 3 Series, Bugatti Veyron, Mercedes-Benz S-Class or other rarefied hardware hailing from the Continent. But soon, buyers of Toyota's entry-level model in the U.S. will be able to legitimately claim they drive a European (built) car. Production of U.S.-bound Yaris models started at Toyota's plant in Valenciennes, France earlier this month, with the first batch of French-built Yarii likely to start showing up in dealerships sometime this summer.
This will represent the first time European-built Toyota models have been officially sold in the U.S. However, it's not entirely unprecedented for a Japanese brand. The Honda Civic Si hatchback sold from 2002-2005 in the U.S. came from Honda's Swindon, England plant. Export volume to the U.S. is expected to be 25,000 units. This likely comes as welcome news to the workers at the Valenciennes plant, as France's auto manufacturing sector has been hit especially hard in the auto industry downturn in Europe, which has seen plant closures across the continent.
The Valenciennes plant, northeast of Paris near the Belgium border, also produces the Yaris Hybrid for the European market. The closest equivalent model in the U.S. is the Toyota Prius C, which for the time being, will continue to be sourced from Toyota's Iwate plant in Northern Japan.
Japan-built Yaris models have a VIN number that starts with a J. French-built Yaris models should have a VIN that starts with "V." The Valenciennes plant has been building the Yaris since 2001 for the European and some export markets.