• 2022 Toyota Mirai

Toyota putting full into full-line automaker

As rivals consolidate lineups, Toyota eyes further growth

Lee Bailie By: Lee Bailie July 21, 2021

While walking around an expansive lawn at Toyota Canada’s Toronto head office on a sweltering early July morning, I was struck by the eclectic lineup of models the automaker had assembled for small groups of auto journalists to pore over.

On this vast expanse of green, the following collection of 2022s were gathered: Corolla Cross compact crossover, GR 86 compact sports coupe, hydrogen powered Mirai sedan and, for good measure, a GR Supra race car and two street-legal variants.

If you want variety – and have an interest in going racing – Toyota has got you covered.

Caveat: I wrote about all of these (except the Supra race car), last month when they were unveiled at Toyota’s Spring Showcase, an event staged at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Texas and streamed online.

In that story, I wrote about the nuts and bolts of the Corolla Cross, GR 86 and Mirai, so if you’re looking for details about each of those be sure to check it out.

2022 Toyota Mirai

Nissan GR 86

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross

This time around, I’m going to zoom out and look at Toyota’s lineup from a macro perspective. This year is a busy one for both the mainline Toyota brand and its Lexus luxury division, with several new and refreshed models set to hit dealer showrooms in the back half of 2021.

Just to level-set, sales for Toyota in Canada this year have been red hot. The margins over 2020 should be taken with a few grains of salt given the pandemic flattened new car sales industry-wide in the first half of the year, but even controlling for that, the gains Toyota has made in 2021 are impressive.

To wit, second quarter sales for Toyota were up 92.3 per cent versus 2020, and 84.3 per cent for Lexus. And leading the charge are the company’s most popular nameplates: RAV4 crossover (up 127.5 per cent), Highlander SUV (up 178 percent), and Corolla compact sedan (up 93.3 per cent). It’s a similar story on the Lexus side, where the subcompact UX crossover posted an all-time quarterly sales record (up 117.1 per cent).

Not to dwell too much on sales stats, but the ones that really stood out to me are two OG models that the broader market is largely abandoning: the mid-size Camry sedan (up 151.6 per cent) and Sienna minivan (up 83.7 per cent). The Sienna is all-new for 2021, so that may partially explain its resurgence, while the Camry has been freshened with new trims and tech, which has likely enhanced its appeal.

With strong sales numbers putting the wind in its sails, Toyota’s new product offensive is set to begin.

In addition to the Corolla Cross, GR 86 and Mirai, all-new versions of the Tundra full-size pick-up and Lexus NX compact crossover will also join the lineup in 2022, with the latter being built at Toyota Canada’s North Plant in Cambridge, Ontario.

I think what’s most striking about Toyota’s lineup is how complete it is, at least in terms of categories. It may not lead the way in plug-ins and battery electrics yet (they’re coming), but its current 17-model lineup is huge compared to some of its rivals such as Honda (11), Mazda (9), Nissan (12) and Volkswagen (11).

It also offers nine hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plus another seven on the Lexus side. Electrified models accounted for 29 per cent of Toyota’s total sales in Canada in the second quarter, with 20,825 units sold marking an all-time quarterly record.

On a personal note, seeing Toyota remain in sedan, minivan and sports car categories that many of its rivals are abandoning, warms my Gen X heart. These are the vehicles of my youth, and it makes me smile to see Toyota double-down and say, “we’re staying”.

Yes, they also sell a pile of SUVs and crossovers (eight), and the Corolla Cross will expand the category further, but we need cars too. And it’s good to see Toyota recognize that.

Sure, the GR 86 and GR Supra are the products of joint ventures with Subaru and BMW respectively, but Toyota believes in these products. And seeing that shiny red second gen 2022 GR 86 made me want to drive it right off Toyota’s lawn.

Given its size and strong sales, perhaps its easy for Toyota to offer such a wide range of vehicles. After all, many of its nameplates are sales juggernauts in their respective classes.

But then how does one explain the presence of the 86 and Supra, which sell only a few hundred units each in Canada every year?

Simple. Toyota Motor Corp. president Akio Toyoda issued an edict of, ‘no more boring cars,’ when he took over, and the 86 and Supra are examples of company designers and engineers following orders.