Exotic car sales in overdrive in Toronto, say dealers at the Canadian International AutoShow

The Canadian International AutoShow opens in Toronto Friday. The event has landed manufacturers and exotic cars that other car shows have missed out on and high-end dealerships credit the large number of luxury car customers who call the city home.

Manufacturers of high-priced exotic automobiles say Toronto's booming economy is fuelling demand

The McLaren Senna on display in the Auto Exotica area of the Canadian International AutoShow. The list price: $1.1 million. (Philip Lee-Shanok/CBC)

Exotic car dealers say they've had bumper years for sales recently thanks to Toronto's strong economy, crediting well-heeled newcomers who are driving an increasing demand for cars that may be unaffordable for most people.

At the Auto Exotica exhibit of the Canadian International AutoShow, 28 exotic cars with a combined value of more than $30 million are on display starting Friday — including the first Canadian appearance of the McLaren Senna, as well as the latest from Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lotus.

The show also landed the North American premier of the Devel Sixteen — it's the first time the car has been seen at any auto show outside of the company's home city of Dubai.

"They have to come here. We buy their cars," said Sonny Yashpal, who does car detailing for Grand Touring Automobiles, a dealership that sells models by Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover and Bugatti.

The McLaren Senna is named after the Brazilian Formula One race driver Ayrton Senna, honouring his success with the McLaren Formula One Team. (Philip Lee-Shanok/CBC)

He says demand has accelerated for high-end luxury and exotic automobiles and the dealership has had double digit sales growth over the last three years, from a few hundred cars a year to thousands — enough to warrant building a new location, the company's third, just east of the Don River.

"It just seems like Toronto has a larger grasp on the premium car market. You know we are the hub of Canada really when it comes to our GDP," he said.

"Toronto's also such a mix of people; people want to live here and that drives foreign investment. Everyone wants to raise their kids here because it's a safe, diverse place."

Sonny Yashpal, who does car detailing for Grand Touring Automobiles. (Philip Lee-Shanok/CBC)

Chris Green of Pfaff McLaren Toronto says you only have to look at the Woodbridge-based dealership's sales figures to explain why so many high-end car manufacturers need to have a presence in the GTA.

"In 2017, we were given the honour of being McLaren's global retailer of the year," said Green, adding that the Toronto location sold the most number of the high-end sports cars in the world that year and accounted for half of the 200 cars McLaren sold in Canada.

"We got money in this country, man. There's definitely money," Green told CBC Toronto.

A new McLaren Sports Series 540 starts around $200,000 and tops out at more than $1 million for the McLaren Senna, he said.

Chris Green, general manager for Pfaff McLaren Toronto, says strong demand in the city helped the dealership set North American and global sales records in 2017. (Philip Lee-Shanok/CBC)

"What we offer is a useable everyday supercar. And typically you don't have those words combined in the same phrase, but it's something that we offer," he said.

But dealers don't attribute the healthy sales for these types of cars  to the growth in the number of "one per centers" in this city alone.

Car culture in Toronto is also being fueled by social media, says Marlon Shaw, who has been posting pictures and videos to his Carswithoutlimits Instagram and Youtube channels and has gained almost four million followers.

"I think over the last few years the whole car scene has blown up like crazy," he said.

"A few years ago you'd see one or two exotic cars. Now, the market has blown up."

Alexander Lakatos, Indujan Sarvananthan, Marlon Shaw and Austin Pacheco say social media has helped kick exotic car culture in Toronto into overdrive. (Philip Lee-Shanok/CBC)

Indujan Sarvananthan also posts to Carswithoutlimits and says social media has definitely pushed Toronto's exotic car craze into high gear.

And he says the social aspect has meant more meet-ups and car shows in the city.

The Lamborghini Aventador SVJ on display at the Auto Exotica exhibit of the 2019 Canadian International AutoShow. (Philip Lee-Shanok/CBC)

"A lot of these guys are actually posting their cars on Instagram and it's out there. People are like, 'OK, these guys are driving their cars in the winter. These guys are actually outside,'" said Sarvananthan.

"It's more fun to see these cars on the road. You get cars seen on social media Facebook, Instagram, everywhere."

About the Author

Philip Lee-Shanok

Senior Reporter, CBC Toronto

From small town Ontario to Washington D.C., Philip has covered stories big and small. An award-winning reporter with two decades of experience in Ontario and Alberta, he's now a Senior Reporter for CBC Toronto on television, radio and online. He is also a National Reporter for The World This Weekend on Radio One.


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