A BOSS at car-maker Toyota says he expects the company to sell more cars in Europe this year.

Didier Leroy, the head of the Japanese manufacturer\'s European operations, predicted the company would sell more than 865,000 cars this year an increase on the 847,530 it sold in 2013.

This would include cars manufactured at the firm\'s Burnaston factory, which exports 89% of all the vehicles it makes to mainland Europe.

Speaking at the Geneva Motor Show this week, Mr Leroy said he also expected to increase profits in the financial year to the end of March.

The recovery of the European car market is expected to continue this year, but at a slow pace, he added.

Mr Leroy said that the popularity of its hybrid models including the Derbyshire-built Auris Hybrid would drive Toyota\'s growth.

In the longer term, he said Toyota would be targeting European sales of around a million by 2015 but he added that the firm would not push to reach that target if it could not be done profitably.

He said: \"We will not grow just for volume. If I can achieve profitable growth by pushing to a million, I will.\"

So far this financial year, Toyota has seen profits in Europe rise by 56% in the first nine months.

Mr Leroy said: \"Everyone agrees that the second half of 2013 was already better and 2014 will continue the same trend. But it will be a very, very slow recovery.\"

Mr Leroy said he expected sales and market share gains to be buoyed by new models, further cost cuts and the increased popularity of hybrids, adding that Europe was already Toyota\'s fastest growing hybrid region.

Last year, the firm sold more than 156,000 hybrids in Europe almost 20% of Toyota\'s sales. Karl Schlicht, head of sales in Europe, said that the car-maker\'s hybrid versions of its Yaris and Auris model had \"been a breakthrough\" for the firm in the technology and helped boost sales by using more traditional European designs and with pricing that came closer to the mainstream options.

Meanwhile, companies that make up the UK automotive chain are set to benefit from millions of pounds worth of funding, which was announced yesterday by the Business Secretary, Vince Cable. The Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative is worth 45.5 million to UK-based suppliers.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: \"The UK has a thriving UK automotive industry but we must continue to grow and develop our supply base.

\"This programme will allow the supply chain to increase skills, research and development capability and manufacturing facilities and will make UK-based companies more successful in competing for both local and overseas business.\"