Despite rapid SUV/crossover sales growth and the continued ascent of the pickup truck market, slowing passenger car sales were a drag on the Canadian auto industry in December 2013. Sales of utility vehicles jumped more than 20%, trucks were up 10%, and even full-size minivans were up 10%.
According to the Automotive News Data Center, however, car sales slid 10% as the majority of Canada’s favourite cars – and many unpopular cars, too – reported fast-falling sales. The Honda Civic, for example, hung on to the monthly best-selling car crown, but Civic volume dropped 49% compared with December 2012. On its own, that 3254-unit decline had a huge impact on an overall car market which declined by around 5000 units as a whole.
December’s poor car effort shone a light on what had been a stagnant car market all year. In what turned out to be a record twelve months for Canadian auto sales volume, poor car growth (up just 0.4% in 2013) supported the theory that buyers are turning in large numbers to small crossovers. The Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4, Canada’s three top-selling utility vehicles, all reported best-ever years. The overall industry’s 4% year-over-year improvement was propelled in large part by a 9% increase in sales of utility vehicles. Cars accounted for just 44% of the market, down from 46% a year ago.
But besides the industry’s record-setting volume, the rude health of the pickup truck category is the number one story out of Canada’s auto industry in 2013. 18.1% of the new vehicles sold in Canada in 2013 were trucks, up from 17.3% in 2012. (14% of U.S. new vehicle sales in 2013 involved trucks.) The two top-selling vehicles in Canada, F-Series and Ram, both set sales records in 2013 after setting sales records in 2012. The F-Series topped 100,000 units for the first time in 2012; the first time any vehicle line did so in Canada. Yet sales rose by another 15,967 units in 2013, a 15% year-over-year increase. Ram volume was up 16%, or 10,993 units. Combined GMC Sierra/Chevrolet Silverado volume was up 7% to 84,398 (4150 more than Ram’s pickup managed), a 5743-unit bump. That level of improvement from four truck lines – 32,703 more sales in 2013 than in 2012 – is meaningful, as the overall industry grew by barely more than twice that figure.
Honda sells a pickup truck, as well, although it only owned 0.7% of the truck market in 2013. The Ridgeline, like the CR-Z, Crosstour, and Insight, means little to Honda’s total, however. Despite the Civic’s slow start and December struggles, Honda car sales jumped 13%. As a result, Honda, Canada’s fifth-best-selling auto brand in 2011 and 2012, climbed to the third spot in 2013. No longer trailing Chevrolet and Hyundai, Honda ended 2013 behind just Ford and Toyota, both of which compete with broader product lineups. Honda’s back, and the Accord and Fit deserve much of the credit. Accord volume jumped 73% to the nameplate’s highest level since 2008; Fit sales doubled and rose to a four-year high.
Korean automakers aren’t about to surrender their status as the nemesis’ of Japanese brands, but Hyundai Canada’s stalled growth in 2013 and Kia’s more drastic decline would, at a glance, cause one to believe the tide has reached its high point. The pair combined to sell more passenger cars than any other manufacturer, but car sales at both brands fell. More noteworthy was the introduction of new products at Kia – Rondo and Forte – which didn’t sell as well as the same nameplates did one year earlier. Kia sales in 2013 were the second-highest ever for the brand, but year-over-year volume was down 7% as each month in 2013 produced fewer sales than the equivalent period in 2012. Kia market share fell from 4.6% in 2012 to 4.2% in 2013; Hyundai market share from 8.1% to 7.9%. Honda brand market share, on the other hand, grew half a percentage point to 8.3%.
Ford, Canada’s top brand and leading manufacturer, suffered a slight market share drop to 16.2%. GM Canada was level at 13.5%. The Chrysler Group jumped to 14.9% from 14.5%. Market share at Toyota, Lexus, and Scion slid slightly to 11.2%.
Volkswagen Canada did not suffer from the travails affecting the brand south of the border thanks to best-ever Tiguan volume and the continued rise of the Jetta lineup. Volkswagen Canada was up 6% in 2013; VW USA volume dropped 7%.
Besides Kia and the discontinued Suzuki brand, automakers which reported declining Canadian sales in 2013 included Volvo, Scion, Fiat, Smart, Lincoln, and Mini. Canada’s five fastest-growing brands were all low-volume premium automakers: Jaguar, Cadillac, Maserati, Porsche, and Land Rover. They were the only brands to post a percentage increase better than Subaru’s 19%. Subaru generated three out of every ten of its 2013 sales from the Forester, its best seller.
As mentioned, Canada’s best-selling truck and best-selling vehicle overall was the Ford F-Series. The Honda Civic topped the car leaderboard. Ford’s Escape led all SUVs and crossovers by a wide margin. The Dodge Grand Caravan owned slightly more than half the minivan market. Canada’s favourite premium brand vehicle was the BMW 3-Series. The 12,507 3-Series’ sales were joined by 546 4-Series sales in the fourth quarter of 2013.