Canadians registered just under 172,000 new vehicles in April, more than in any April since 2008. Through the first quarter of 2013, auto sales in Canada were down 1.9%. Imports, by which we mean non-Detroit brands, were suffering the most. Including Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, and Kia, nine Asian brands had posted year-over-year declines at the end of March.
And how? Light truck sales, which includes everything from pickups to SUVs and minivans, grew 16% compared with April 2012. Passenger car volume was up just 1% and formed 44.9% of the overall market’s volume, down from 48.4% a year ago. In Toyota Canada showrooms, for example, where overall volume was up 7.2%, car sales fell 1.9%. Honda passenger car sales grew 11.5%, but with strong CR-V and Pilot growth, light truck sales jumped 27%. Nissan car sales fell 1.3%; Nissan light truck sales rose 50.5%.
April was clearly a much improved month for import nameplates, including Audi, BMW, Porsche, and Volkswagen. Nevertheless, through the first quarter, the biggest headlines continue to be created by Detroit’s increased influence in Canada. Cadillac, Ram, Chrysler, Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, and Dodge have all reported year-over-year increases through four months. Collectively, Ford Motor Company, the Chrysler Group, and General Motors have posted a 5.2% increase this year. They’re now accounting for 45.9% of the industry’s volume in Canada, up from 44.3% in the same period of 2012.
Most surprising is the fact that they’re producing a healthy amount of the increased volume with cars. At Chrysler’s three car-selling brands, sales are up 13% in 2013. Light trucks at Dodge, Ram, and Jeep are up just 2.3%. In April, General Motors light truck volume grew 18.9%, yet car sales rose 22.5%. At Ford, where 6217 extra F-Series sales (in just four months) have helped push trucks and utilities and commercial vans up 8.3%, car sales have risen 6.3% thanks to a strong push from Canada’s best-selling midsize car, the Fusion.
Much attention has been paid this year to the Hyundai Elantra’s status as Canada’s best-selling car. Its significant two-month lead nearly disappeared in March but then grew slightly, to 161 units, by the end of April. But as much as Canadians prefer small cars over midsize cars, Canadians also love pickup trucks, especially deeply discounted pickup trucks. Despite the market’s stagnation, the loss of the Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota – 2634 units between the pair at this point in 2012 – and the near disappearance of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon – only 120 units between the pair in 2013 – truck sales are up 9.9% in 2013, having risen 21.9% in April.
Automobile sales north of the border represent just 10% of Canada/U.S. sales volume, but 13% of Canada/U.S. truck sales occur in Canada.
Also: Fiat 500 sales have plunged in Canada this year, but the 500 is still outselling the whole Mini brand by 884 units through four months. With the new RDX selling very well and the MDX surging, Acura is only 723 units back of Audi for third place in premium brand standings. They’re both well back of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The Chevrolet Trax, which Americans can’t buy, at least not in America, outsold the Chevrolet Malibu by four units in April. 8% of the Porsches sold in Canada were Caymans, up from 0% in March. On a year-over-year basis, Volkswagen Jetta sales rose for the ninth consecutive month in April. Subaru sold more vehicles than in any month in the company’s Canadian history, helped no doubt by the fact that the company markets more nameplates than ever before, but also by the Forester’s best month ever. 45% of the Scions sold in April were of the FR-S variety, as the volume achieved by all four of Scion’s other models declined.