By on June 19, 2014


In May 2014, Canadian auto sales shot up to record monthly levels by soaring beyond 195,000 units, one-eighth the size of the U.S. industry last month.

These record sales levels occur as buyers transition from in large numbers from cars to crossovers, particularly smaller crossovers from volume brands.

It’s become a long-running theme. Car sales were down 2.4% in May 2014 according to the Automotive News Data Center. Cars formed just 43.5% of the overall market, down from 43.6% in April and down from 47.1% in May of last year, a massive market share decline.

The bigger the car, the more serious the hit. Large Impala-class cars slid 24% in May to just 2803 units, equal to just 3.3% of the passenger car market. More seriously, midsize cars – led by the Ford Fusion – were off May 2013’s pace by 23%, a loss of 3518 units in just one month.

The Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Passat stand out as the only midsize cars to achieve year-over-year improvements during the first five months of 2014, but their gains are moderate, and neither of those two cars are even close to being top sellers in the category.

Even Canada’s most popular vehicle category, the compact class, is not immune to the move away from passenger cars. The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the segment’s two top sellers at the moment, have recorded impressive year-over-year improvements by stealing sales from rival cars, not by bringing in new buyers. Compact sales were down 3% in May (4% YTD) as the Dart, Focus, Elantra, Forte, Lancer, and Sentra collectively slid 21%.

Many of the smallest cars are selling better this year than in 2013. Year-to-date, the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, and Toyota’s Prius C and Yaris are ahead of last year’s pace. Mitsubishi and Nissan have added 2740 sales this year that couldn’t exist at this time last year via the Mirage and Micra. In fact, the Micra has not surprisingly proven capable of attracting Canadians, helped by its ultra-low sub-$10,000 base price. 877 were sold in May, ranking the Micra 28th among all cars. All six of the cars which ranked directly ahead the Micra reported year-over-year declines.

In order to reach record-high sales levels, Canada’s auto market is clearly making up for the lost car sales elsewhere. Although pickup truck volume is down very slightly year-to-date, May pickup sales jumped 6%, a gain of 1879 units. Pickups accounted for 17.1% of the Canadian auto industry’s May sales; 12.7% in the United States.

Minivan volume shot up 7% in May. Include the Mazda 5, Kia Rondo, and Chevrolet Orlando in the mix, and minivan sales were up 10%. Minivans generated 5.6% of the industry’s May sales. 52% of Chrysler Canada’s sales in May were generated by the Ram P/U (Canada’s second-best-selling vehicle line), Dodge Grand Caravan (54% minivan market share), and Chrysler Town & Country.
The real difference from one year to the next is visible when studying sales of SUVs and crossovers. Canadians registered nearly 9200 more in May 2014 than in May 2013, a 17% year-over-year increase. The five top sellers – Escape, CR-V, RAV4, Santa Fe Sport, Rogue – attracted three out of every ten SUV/crossover buyers last month, collectively rising 16%.

The perception that Canadians prefer small cars is not without merit. Yet 48.5% of the new vehicles sold in Canada in May 2014 were pickups, SUVs, and crossovers, compared with 44.3% south of the border.

Ford Motor Company was again the top seller of new vehicles in Canada in May, although Chrysler Canada leads the way year-to-date. Despite falling F-Series sales and plunging car volume, Ford’s Blue Oval brand continues to outsell all other auto brands in Canada. BMW was Canada’s top so-called premium brand in May; Mercedes-Benz leads year-to-date.

The Honda and Nissan brands owned 12% of the Canadian market in May 2013 but improved that total to 13.4% one year later. No brand has added more sales to their 2013 five-month over the first five months of 2014 than Nissan, although Jeep’s 7998-unit YTD improvement comes close.

Strong as Jeep is, and as much as Nissan is powered by its top-selling Rogue, there is perhaps no greater figurehead for the utility vehicle boom than Porsche. By adding its second-best-selling Macan in May, Porsche Canada gleaned 60% of its sales from the high-riding side of the showroom even as Porsche car sales jumped 7%. Not only did Porsche add the Macan, but Cayenne sales increased, as well.


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32 Comments on “Canada Sales Recap: May 2014...”

  • avatar

    I’m surprised the honda sold so many civics. Must have some major incentives going on up in Canada for the civic.

  • avatar

    2 surprises for me:
    – Camry can’t crack the Top 25
    – Journey. Why, Canada?

    • 0 avatar

      Journey is:

      1) based off the Caravan and;

      2) cheeeeep.

      The Camry is more of an American phenomenon.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Camry was the top-selling midsize car in 2012 (when it was the 22nd-best-selling vehicle overall) but then fell to second last year and is currently the third-ranked midsize car, well ahead of the Sonata. It doesn’t crack the top 25 this year, but it does rank 26th.

    • 0 avatar

      When it comes to sedans, the Canadian market is more like the European market – favoring the compacts over the midsizers.

      Also, the Camry isn’t the foregone sales leader with the Fusion and Accord challenging or being ahead (just as the Corolla isn’t either for the compact segment).

      And the Sonata usually is pretty close to the Camry (usually, the Sonata + Optima outsell the Camry by a good amount) but Sonata sales are down YTD due to the lull between model changes.

    • 0 avatar

      The Journey offers a lot for the money. I here it holds up well in colder climates.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Starts around $20k. Big enough to hold the kids and their hockey gear. High enough for most potholes. Makes sense in a very Canadian way.

        Hard to get a Venza or Outback for under $30k.

  • avatar

    @86er – correct. Chrysler offers deep discounts to many of their vehicles. The Grand Caravan tends to sell for considerably less than Toyota or Honda. The latter vary little from MSRP.

    Jeep Wrangler Unlimited has been a boom literally and figuratively for FCA. The Unlimited is seen by young couples as the “cool” people hauler. It does not have the bland soccer mom stigma that has been stuck to minivans and has the rugged appeal that most CUV’s and SUV’s do not have.

    Several young couples on my street have them and I’ve never seen either one dirty. My 20 ft. long truck has been in tougher places than those 2 vehicles.
    That goes to show that perception of utility sells more vehicles than actual utility.

  • avatar

    The “perception that Canadians prefer small cars” is just people dealing with much higher costs here. Gas is already well over $5/gallon and rising, car insurance is far more expensive than in the US, and don’t even get me started on the cost of housing.

    There’s also the fact that some best-sellers are made locally and available at a discount to a lot of people (employees, relatives, business partners). Grand Caravan, Civic and RAV4 are made in Ontario and you see them everywhere.

    I would love to see a regional breakdown if it’s available… many of those best sellers seem like “western” vehicles to me that I don’t see around town that often.

    • 0 avatar

      @TorontoSkeptic – there was a study done in relation to average age of vehicles in Canada and it showed that the prairies liked pickups and kept them longer. Central and Northern BC has a love affair with pickups and even the lower mainland had a large number of them around.

  • avatar

    You North Mexicans sure do love those Ram trucks.

    I keed, I keed….sort of.

    • 0 avatar

      Hmmmm I wonder if I can get away with that on forms. Race: North Mexican.

    • 0 avatar

      The South Mexicans are big fans of Ram trucks too. The Ram also outsells GM trucks in Mexico. But then Ram is on the way to kicking GM’s A$$ in the States too. As it should be. Or once was.

      Ram lost its way, starting back in the late ’80s, when even fleets didn’t want them.

      Now it’s GM that’s losing its way. Mediocre pickups, endless recalls and no medium dutys in sight.

  • avatar

    North Mexican?

    Is that the new Yankee term for illegals North of the line established by the La Paz Agreement?

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Surprised the Accord does so poorly

  • avatar

    “The perception that Canadians prefer small cars is not without merit. Yet 48.5% of the new vehicles sold in Canada in May 2014 were pickups, SUVs, and crossovers, compared with 44.3% south of the border.”

    Actually, you just proved precisely that this perception is without merit … except in Québec. Something that my own eyes have long believed.

    I grow weary of reading it in Canadian car reviews, and with good reason, because it’s untrue (except in Québec). Perhaps manufacturers will (or at least should!) now rethink selling the B-Klasse, and Micra in the U.S., too.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the point is that compacts are much more popular than mid-size compared to the US. I think Americans would be very surprised to see the Accent outselling the Sonata, or the Civic outselling the Accord by such a huge margin.

      I agree it’s a very polarized market, the very small/cheap and very big/expensive both seem to do well.

      I maintain that it’s mostly the higher prices, taxes and cost of living. I don’t think there’s any inherent preference for smaller cars, it’s just what’s affordable here.

      The listing doesn’t really surprise me, I see endless RAV4s and Rogues around my young-family neighborhood, and also plenty of compact hatches (Mazda3, Focus, Elantra).

      • 0 avatar

        @TorontoSkeptic…I have to agree with you. There is just too many demands on our cash here. The Greater Toronto Area,is completely different from the rest of Canada. The cost of living here is staggering. A 40 year two bedroom apartment in the east end of the GTA is $1400 a month, and your looking at an hour and a half commute to downtown.

        It all comes down to money. In the rural areas the pick up trucks rule. The price of fuel,has got to be impacting the country folks budgets. With the state the rural roads are in, a truck like vehicle, is their only option. At a $150 a fill up its gotta hurt.

  • avatar

    Mazda should be thrilled, and I am surprised by the poor showing of Subaru and of the good showing of the Wrangler.

  • avatar

    I’d be really curious to know how many of those pickups are leases driven by tax wrtite-offs.

    • 0 avatar

      @Whatnext – leasing by companies is a mixed bag. Some large companies like Canadian Forest Products (CanFor) lease but tend to get hit by over-mileage and damage charges. Seasonal operations will often lease for 6 months in the summer. Small companies/private contractors don’t like leases because they tend to rack up more miles than the lease allows.
      Tax write offs are 3 years and most leases tend to be 3 years with a mileage cap. My brother likes the mileage cap since that means he tends to get a new truck every 1 1/2 to 2 years.

  • avatar

    LOC’s buoyed by real estate bubble.

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