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Interview With Stephen Beatty, Managing Director of Toyota Canada Inc. (video)

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While at the Vancouver International Auto Show, I had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Stephen Beatty, the Managing Director of Toyota Canada. We discussed the popularity of the Toyota Prius with taxi companies and other fleet operators as well as the public.

The abundance of Prius taxicabs on the streets of Vancouver made an impression of Stephen. It seems that Vancouver's reputation for ecological conservation and its high fuel prices combined to create the "perfect storm" for propagating the hybrid Prius in the harsh world of taxi usage. Their abundance has provided Toyota with plenty of feedback from highly satisfied taxi operators.

But Toyota's research into the effectiveness of the Prius in the "taxi world" began when it purchased-back one of the original Prius cabs from a Vancouver operator once it had accumulated several hundred thousand kilometres of hard living.

Toyota disassembled this unit to examine how well it withstood the brutality of relentless operation at the hands of taxi drivers; these are not folks known for their genteel driving habits. Their demanding routine could never be accurately replicated in conventional testing.

Along with scientific and empirical studies, Stephen highlighted anecdotal feedback from a cabbie claiming that the Prius was capable of saving him $18 per shift in fuel expenses over the operation of a Toyota Corolla.

Not only have taxi operators benefited from reduced fuel expenses, they have also experienced a reduction in "wear and tear" expenses due to the reliability of the Prius. Brakes in particular are long-lasting thanks to the regenerative function, which provides braking without applying the brake pads to rotors.

I found it quite interesting, and I admit a bit amusing, when Stephen told me about a Canadian fire department that uses the Prius as an emergency vehicle. Apparently, it's equipped with lights and sirens and heads out on emergency runs.

The popularity of the Prius among fleet operators is definitely growing. Many government services and politicians are utilizing the Prius, and enjoying the "green" image that accompanies this vehicle.

Even movie stars and famous singers have opted for the ecological theme that Toyota's hybrid-that-could exhibits. These are people that could drive the exotic vehicle of their choice but would rather drive the people's choice for reducing the impact on Mother Earth, and how cool is that!
photo:Philippe Champoux