Jennifer Barron is the first woman to head up Lexus in Canada. After 27 years at what she refers to as the “best company in Canada, automotive or not,” she’s our inspiration for what hard work, knowledge and experience can lead us to. .
After graduating from Ryerson Polytechical Institute in 1988, Barron joined Toyota Canada Inc., the Lexus brand’s parent company. In the fall of 1990, she joined the Lexus team at the time of the luxury vehicle brand’s launch in Canada, and remained there ever since. Over the course of her career, she has held a number of roles across various departments, including After Sales as National Manager of Customer Relations, National Manager of Service Marketing and Retention, and now as Director, Lexus Division, Canada. Her climb to the top that has inspired us to find out more about what it’s like being a woman in the driver’s seat at one of the world’s most recognized brands.
What’s been most rewarding about your career so far?
JB: I really have to think hard about what’s been the most rewarding because there have been a several! One is the fact that I get to work with two brands that are very well-respected. They have great reputations and not just from a product perspective, but also from a customer perspective. Then there is everything we’re doing for the environment. So, you can feel good about a company that has those values. From a personal perspective, what’s been most rewarding is that I was given, or earned, the opportunity to move around and be in different roles within the company. Toyota’s global philosophy, and particularly in Canada, is to grow from within so there are a lot of opportunities. Seeing the business from different perspectives, and getting involved in different teams, has been incredible.
The other thing that’s rewarding is having the chance to speak with younger women within the company and give them advice on their careers. Not that I feel like it’s a responsibility but I’m very happy to share what I’ve experienced and it’s all been very positive.
It’s interesting to see how women have evolved in the ads we are seeing today. I can still recall commercials where the woman was portrayed as only interested in the vanity mirrors. How cars are marketed to women these days? Things are changing?
JB: They better be! Years ago I was on a team that looked at the holistic approach to marketing vehicles and I remember someone saying “if you make it good for women, you will make it good for everyone.” This was a long time ago and I was lucky to be involved with that. As a brand, we’re always examining who our customers are and what do they want. But certainly women, especially in luxury, are an important market. About 33% of vehicles are bought by women in this category and 2 out of 3 purchases are influenced by women so it’s pretty high. Women are very well educated, informed, intelligent and very capable consumers. As women, we know what we want and we set very high expectations for the experience. It’s absolutely important to look at women as not just the purchaser, but also the influencer. Women are more independent and we are definitely increasing our buying power.
What are women most looking for these days when making their purchasing decisions?
JB: Women are looking for all-wheel drive. They certainly are looking for that versatility. We all look at how a vehicle fits into our lifestyle. For women the technology has two points of interest: safety and reliability. Also, in the luxury space, we’re looking for acknowledgement of the effort that you’ve put into your career and how hard you’ve worked. It’s that recognition of “hey, I deserved this and this is for me.” Then also the interior – we’re interested in the comfort, the layout of the dash and of course the sleekness of the exterior. The NX is a beautiful compact SUV. It’s very nimble. It’s got all-wheel drive and has a lot of amenities and technology built into it. It’s a great ride but also has security.
Can we talk about the concept vehicles? I remember coming to the show and seeing the Lexus SUV that was absolutely a dream. I always wonder about the next steps. What technology is coming along that is exciting for you?
JB: Yes! The concept vehicle that was unveiled at last year’s CIAS and aspects of it is being looked at to take it to the next level. Same goes for this year’s concept vehicle. They give visitors an idea of some of the technology that’s emerging.
So what was revealed at the most recent Canadian International Auto Show?
JB:We unveiled the Lexus LS+ Concept a vehicle that gives a great insight into the latest technology and how that technology is evolving to help the driver be safe. It’s not about autonomy of letting the car drive, but it’s really about you as the driver and how the car is going to be there to make sure you are safe. The Lexus RX L was also exciting for people to check out at the show. It seats up to seven people that is very appealing to families. You know, when you have to take kids and friends to the rink or older parents out for dinner.
The head-turning Lexus LS+ Concept unveiled at the Canadian International Auto Show is what future luxury dreams are made of, this vehicle brings the latests in innovation. Notable features include:
- A new exterior Spindle Grill with large shutters that enhance both cooling and aerodynamic performance.
- Headlamps and rear combination lamps are partially laser-lit.
- Traditional side mirrors are replaced with electronic technology that displays images inside the cabin.
- State of the art technology includes “Highway Teammate” which would enable completely autonomous driving on limited access highways such as the 400 series in Ontario.
- The vehicle features onboard artificial intelligence which can perform merges, lane changes, lane keeping and help provide adequate space around the vehicle.
- The AI also connects with a Lexus data centre to allow Lexus to easily add new functions, and it learns from road and other sources to enhance its performance.
We did take note of the Lexus RX L ! It’s definitely more than an RX with an extra row. Designers and engineers have worked closely to create a new body to ensure the additional third row would be as comfortable as the second without compromising the luxury look and feel.
Thank you to Jennifer for taking the time to chat with us at the recent Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto!