Canadian Auto Sales Would Have to Plummet in Final Third of 2017 for This to Not Be the Industry’s Best Year Ever

Canadian auto sales climbed to an all-time record high in 2013, jumping past the 1.7-million mark for the first time since 2002. The industry bettered that total in 2014, topped 2014’s total in 2015, and set a new record in 2016.

While U.S. auto sales continue to fall, sliding 2 percent in August and 3 percent through the first two-thirds of 2017, Canadian auto sales in August 2017 improved for a fourth consecutive month and the seventh month so far this year. Moreover, the improvements have been anything but modest. An 11-percent uptick in May was followed up by a 6-percent June increase, a 5-percent July increase, and a 7-percent August rise.

In fact, so strong are Canadian auto sales through the first two-thirds of 2017 that disaster would need to strike in the final four months of the year in order for 2017 not to be the best year ever for the Canadian auto industry.

Disaster appears unlikely.

After exceeding the sales total of 2016’s first eight months by 70,000 units in 2017’s first eight months, automakers competing in Canada need only sell 545,000 new vehicles in the remaining four months of the year to set yet another annual record.

The auto industry generated 615,000 sales during the final four months of 2016.

That means that even an 11-percent year-over-year drop in auto sales — the kind of decline Canada’s auto industry hasn’t seen since the recession of 2009 — wouldn’t be enough to stop the industry from reporting best-ever auto sales in 2017. If such a possibility seemed remotely likely when April volume slid 2 percent, the rapid growth achieved by the industry over the summer has all but eliminated such a prospect.

August’s results were the latest to strongly suggest that Canadians are hungrier than ever for new vehicles. Passenger car volume rose marginally; light truck sales jumped 11 percent to form 68 percent of new vehicle sales.

The highest-volume August in history was made possible in large part by a massive 29-percent jump at General Motors, equal to 6,434 additional sales, year-over-year. GM pickup truck volume shot up 51 percent to 15,109 units, more than half of GM Canada’s total volume. GM outsold all other automakers in Canada — a regular occurrence south of the border but not an ordinary achievement for GM Canada — as regular No.1 Ford Motor Company fell 6 percent and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles volume tumbled 9 percent.

GM was hardly the only high achiever in August, however. Volkswagen volume jumped 72 percent thanks to a tripling of SUV/crossover sales, driving the brand’s market share up from 3.1 percent in August 2016 to 4.9 percent in August 2017.

Audi, Infiniti, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Porsche all reported double-digit percentage gains. The Honda brand was up 6 percent on strong Civic sales. Despite passenger car malaise, the Civic is on track for its 20th consecutive year as Canada’s best-selling car thanks to a record pace through the first eight months of the year. Total Toyota volume rose 8 percent as the Corolla and RAV4, the automaker’s two top sellers, both reported meaningful gains. Mazda also reported an 8-percent rise, Subaru was up nearly 10 percent, and BMW reported 4 percent growth.

That left Acura and Hyundai as the major outliers. Acura sales tumbled 21 percent as sales of every model in the lineup save the TLX declined on a year-over-year basis. Even the crossover duo was down 24 percent.

Hyundai, meanwhile, reported the brand’s 11th decline in the last 12 months — an 11-percent drop caused by the brand’s (increasingly less) high-volume cars. The Accent, admittedly approaching a replacement phase, joined the Elantra and Sonata in losing 16 percent of their August volume. Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe XL volume dipped, as well. The Tucson’s 67-percent increase was the brand’s saving grace.

Top-tier vehicle lines continue to exert inordinate control over the Canadian market. The Ford F-Series, Ram P/U, Honda Civic, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Toyota RAV4 — the six best-selling vehicles in August — produced more than one-quarter of the industry’s sales last month. That’s more than Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, and Subaru combined.

Auto Brand
Aug. 2017
Aug. 2016
% Change
2017 YTD
2016 YTD
% Change

Ford
26,601
28,213
-5.7%
209,536
203,072
3.2%

Toyota
17,950
16,659
7.7%
137,012
136,019
0.7%

Honda
16,719
15,764
6.1%
123,700
111,303
11.1%

Chevrolet
16,211
12,751
27.1%
116,492
98,612
18.1%

Nissan
11,970
10,521
13.8%
92,573
84,984
8.9%

Hyundai
11,949
13,405
-10.9%
91,271
100,630
-9.3%

GMC
9,898
6,969
42.0%
67,475
55,487
21.6%

Volkswagen
9,032
5,253
71.9%
45,221
42,650
6.0%

Ram
8,447
6,615
27.7%
76,952
66,398
15.9%

Kia
7,692
6,688
15.0%
51,932
49,533
4.8%

Mazda
7,036
6,546
7.5%
50,134
46,746
7.2%

Jeep
6,034
6,416
-6.0%
50,351
59,342
-15.2%

Subaru
4,950
4,512
9.7%
35,837
32,637
9.8%

Dodge
4,355
6,836
-36.3%
54,654
59,109
-7.5%

Mercedes-Benz
4,216
3,719
13.4%
34,803
31,087
12.0%

Audi
3,292
2,597
26.8%
24,675
20,662
19.4%

BMW
3,040
2,950
3.1%
24,823
24,643
0.7%

Lexus
2,086
1,972
5.8%
16,268
14,294
13.8%

Mitsubishi
2,050
2,056
-0.3%
15,418
15,194
1.5%

Acura
1,632
2,064
-20.9%
12,698
12,925
-1.8%

Buick
1,597
1,667
-4.2%
12,457
12,418
0.3%

Cadillac
1,275
1,160
9.9%
8,905
7,487
18.9%

Infiniti
1,193
987
20.9%
8,314
7,572
9.8%

Porsche
785
689
13.9%
5,364
4,730
13.4%

Land Rover
732
660
10.9%
6,001
6,066
-1.1%

Lincoln
685
769
-10.9%
5,688
5,523
3.0%

Chrysler
613
1,580
-61.2%
10,266
12,220
-16.0%

Mini
589
625
-5.8%
4,488
4,456
0.7%

Volvo
572
568
0.7%
4,383
4,275
2.5%

Jaguar
390
341
14.4%
3,217
1,712
87.9%

Alfa Romeo
121
9
1244%
425
53
702%

Fiat
78
171
-54.4%
2,041
1,613
26.5%

Maserati
75
20
275%
901
333
171%

Genesis
55


328

Smart
25
282
-91.1%
244
935
-73.9%

 —

General Motors
28,981
22,547
28.5%
205,329
174,004
18.0%

Ford Motor Company
27,286
28,982
-5.9%
215,224
208,595
3.2%

Toyota Canada
20,036
18,631
7.5%
153,280
150,313
2.0%

Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group
19,696
20,093
-2.0%
143,531
150,163
-4.4%

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
19,648
21,627
-9.2%
194,689
198,735
-2.0%

Honda Canada
18,351
17,828
2.9%
136,398
124,228
9.8%

Nissan/Infiniti/Mitsubishi
15,213
13,564
12.2%
116,305
107,750
7.9%

Volkswagen Group
13,109
8,539
53.5%
75,260
68,042
10.6%

Mercedes-Benz Canada
4,241
4,001
6.0%
35,047
32,022
9.4%

BMW Group
3,629
3,575
1.5%
29,311
29,099
0.7%

Jaguar-Land Rover
1,122
1,001
12.1%
9,218
7,778
18.5%

Industry Total

183,945

172,034

6.9%

1,404,847

1,334,720

5.3%

Source: Global Automakers Of Canada

[Image: General Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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