Interview with Toyota Canada’s Stephen Beatty

Toyota Canada's Steven Beatty

I had a chance at last week’s Toronto Auto Show to have a quick chat with Toyota Canada’s Managing Director, Steven Beatty, about the growing Canadian Lexus sales and the possibility of a production LF-Ch coming to Canada (keep in mind that this conversation took place before Lexus’ announcement of the CT 200h).

TLE: In January, Lexus Canada had a 62% sales increase, and I was curious what you would attribute that to.

Stephen Beatty: I attribute it to good product! (laughs)

TLE: That’s a good answer!

Stephen Beatty: You know, the other issue is, I think the economy is showing signs of picking up, there’s just some general buoyancy in the marketplace. I think we’ve have some good offers in place and exciting new products coming to the market.

Over the past year, there’s been refreshed models like the ES and LS, new ones like GX, IS-C—the product range is continuing to expand.

TLE: I thought it could have a lot to do with last January’s sales—

Stephen Beatty: There’s always some of that—I fundamentally believe walking into this year that we’re going to see month over month increases.

TLE: There’s been quite a string of sales increases. Even last year, you had plenty of year-over-year sales increases, even with the poor economy. Do you find that Lexus is gaining a lot more traction in Canada?

Stephen Beatty: I think it is in part, like I said, because the lineup itself is changing. I think it’s also it’s reaching into parts of the marketplace that are that much more relevant to the Canadian consumer. For example, the LFA is a wonderful car, but you’re probably not going to see me driving around in it…

TLE: You never know…

Stephen Beatty: It is what it is. It’s a statement of our technology and an aspirational vehicle, but the truth is, being able to bring enhancements to the IS lineup, having a well-priced ES, and then HS coming in at the price-point it does—all of that popularizes, or democratizes, the brand for consumers that may have thought in the past that luxury was a little beyond their reach.

TLE: The market has certainly gotten to a point where there isn’t much of a price increase from the top-end of the mainstream models to…

Stephen Beatty: And that’s the point. I think when you look at it—you can either go the high-end of a mass-market brand or you can step up to Lexus and look at what you get. It’s terrific.

Now, again, last year, and I should never diminish the importance of the RX. It’s the heart of Lexus sales here in Canada, and obviously building it here in Canada is a big plus. This generation of RX is very, very strong.

TLE: Strong than what you saw with the second generation?

Stephen Beatty: Absolutely. It’s a very good vehicle. A lot of things we experienced with generation-two is what we targeted as areas where we thought we could move the needle forward with, to make a better, more pleasurable vehicle for the driver and passenger.

TLE: The RX is your top-selling model, what other models do you see selling in Canada?

Stephen Beatty: The IS—the ES has always been a strong seller. I think over time the HS will be an important model in the lineup.

I’m really interested to see what kind of reaction we get from show-goers to this one (gesturing to the LF-Ch Concept)…

TLE: That led into my last question—if the LF-Ch reaches production—and I’ve heard that it will be revealed in Geneva—do you see it coming to Canada?

Stephen Beatty: Again, if you were going to have a compact hatchback in the Lexus lineup, I can’t think of a better place for it than the Canadian marketplace.

TLE: I absolutely agree. It’s well suited…

Stephen Beatty: If there was such a car. (laughs)

TLE:Well, thank you, I appreciate your time.

Stephen Beatty: Not at all, take care.