Toyota looking to build on Canadian growth in 2009

Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:15pm EST
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toyota Canada Inc is cautiously optimistic about its prospects this year and aims to increase its market share by being aggressive while its competitors retrench, the company's managing director said on Wednesday.

"There's no question that sales overall are likely to be down in the market," Stephen Beatty told Reuters on the sidelines of the Canadian International Show in Toronto.

"But there are plenty of opportunities for companies to pick up market share if they've got the right product and the right offers in the market."

Overall auto sales in Canada fell 25 percent in January, but Toyota's sales, not including Lexus, actually inched 0.3 percent higher.

So far this year, Toyota has launched the third generation of the popular Prius, the Venza crossover, the Lexus RX and the hybrid Lexus HS250H.

The company had its best ever yearly sales in Canada in 2008, jumping ahead of Ford Canada and Chrysler Canada to become the No. 2 auto seller in the country.

Beatty said part of what helped it get there was its access to credit from Toyota Financial. That allowed the company to provide leasing while companies like Chrysler and General Motors Corp largely pulled out of leasing in Canada.

Up until about a year ago, about 44 percent of new vehicles in Canada were leased, but since the credit crunch, that number has dropped closer to 20 percent.   Continued...