You must admire Toyota Canada for staying on point and on message even as sales this year for the Toyota brand were down 15.3 per cent through the end of February and Lexus luxury brand sales were off 15.6 per cent. Those sharp drops come on the heels of a terrible 2010: Toyota brand down 16.7 per cent and Lexus down 9.8 per cent.
Yet yesterday at the Vancouver auto show, Toyota Canada managing director Stephen Beatty insisted that the sales numbers going forward at Toyota are trending upward. He expects the spring and early summer selling season to be strong, too. Toyota Canada's sales will be up this year, he said.
The consistent message from Toyota Canada is that the return to health will be driven by new products with high quality, loads of safety features and exceptional fuel economy. This year, Toyota Canada plans to introduce an average of one all-new or refreshed model a month across from Toyota, Lexus or Scion. Among the offerings: 2012 Toyota Prius v, 2012 Scion iQ, 2011 Lexus CT 200h and 2012 Lexus LFA.
Beatty also said he does not anticipate any supply issues of new vehicles through the spring and early summer, despite the devastation in Japan from the massive earthquake. Toyota Canada, he said, filled its order books for the coming months some time ago and many of the models sold in Canada are built in North America, though a number of key parts are imported from Japan.
Beatty repeated in person yesterday almost word for word what was in a press release handed out after his presentation at the Vancouver auto show. He talked about "the launch of the fuel-efficient, Canadian-built Corolla and Matrix, refreshed for 2011 and featuring the standard Star Safety System" and then he went into some details about "new hybrid models like the Toyota Prius v and Lexus CT 200h with a goal to introduce a hybrid in every segment in which we compete by 2020."
He also mentioned that with more than "52,000 sold to date in this country, Toyota offers the most fuel-efficient passenger car fleet in Canada, and is also the best-selling hybrid brand in the country with over 50 per cent of hybrid buyers choosing a Toyota or Lexus model." Just so you know: "Toyota was also voted Most Trusted Hybrid Brand by Canadians in the Reader's Digest 2011 Trusted Brands awards program."
Here's the takeaway for me: Toyota globally Toyota in Canada has been going through a rough patch, a very rough patch, for 18 months or so. But don't count this company out. Toyota has a formidable level of discipline and commit bred into the corporate DNA.
"There is a lot at Toyota based on sound principles," he pointed out when questioned about slack sales and possible damage to the company's reputation in the wake of safety recalls and what some would argue quality glitches.
He's right. If Toyota's competition thinks the Japanese giant has gone to sleep they will find themselves sadly mistaken. Toyota remains a force in the auto industry and will be so for years to come.