By on August 18, 2016

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, Canada (May 16, 2014) - An all-new Nissan Micra has returned to the Canadian landscape. This is a fun car, packed with details and more value than what is available in other small cars in the market. Its key attributes were on display in Montreal as the brand hosted a welcome-back event for the car., Image: Nissan Canada

Grits and poutine aren’t the only divisions betwixt us.

Celine Dion and two-year election campaigns aren’t the only factors that enable Europeans to tell us apart.

Catastrophic illness-induced bankruptcy and wait-time-fostering universal healthcare aren’t the only hallmarks of our unique approaches to public policy.

There are wildly divergent vehicular tastes between the United States and Canada, as well.

True, the Ford F-Series is Canada’s best-selling vehicle, just as it is in the United States. Mercedes-Benz is the top-selling luxury brand in both the United States and Canada; Ford is the top brand overall. The Honda Civic is the best-selling small car in both countries. Toyota’s Camry is the leading midsize car on both sides of the border. No automaker operating in the U.S. or Canada sells more minivans than Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. For goodness’ sake, even bald eagles and beavers cross borders.

Yet for all the similarities of two markets that share so much and bear a great deal of resemblance to one another, there are profound differences. For all of Canada’s disproportionate small car affection, full-size pickup trucks consume significantly greater market share in Canada than in the United States. Minivans are distinctly more common purchases in Canada, as well.

Earlier this week, we discussed a handful of other key differences in these two markets that share the world’s longest undefended border, namely, the cars Canadians can buy that Americans can’t, and the cars Americans can buy that Canadians can’t.

That was interesting. But the data reveals there are high-volume vehicles in both countries that seriously overperform their counterparts on the other side of the border. Through the first seven months of 2016, the U.S. new vehicle market was 8.7 times larger than the Canadian new vehicle market. Yet the leading vehicle on our U.S. list sells 36 times more often in the U.S. than Canada, and the leading vehicle on the Canadian list barely sells more than twice as often in the U.S. — a market that’s nearly nine times the size, remember — than in Canada.

Get the drift? With the U.S. market roughly nine times larger than Canada’s, any vehicle which sells more than nine times more often in the U.S. than it does in Canada is overperforming in the U.S.

Meanwhile, any vehicle which sells less than nine times more often in the U.S. than it does in Canada is underperforming in the U.S.; overperforming in Canada.

We’ve compiled two lists by excluding any vehicle that does not rank among the top 50 best-selling new vehicles in the U.S. or Canada. This reduces emphasis on low-volume anomalies. We’ve also excluded vehicles that aren’t on sale on the other side of the border — it’s obvious that they’re overperforming. First, five vehicles that most dramatically overperform in the United States, then the top five that overperform in Canada. This doesn’t mean each car is unpopular on the other side of the border, only that there’s a great deal of difference in the tastes of Americans and Canadians.

USA

2016 Jeep® Renegade Latitude

#5: Jeep Renegade – 23.5-to-1
A hugely popular leader among subcompact utility vehicles in the United States, the Jeep Renegade is a drop in the bucket in Canada. Honda’s HR-V, for example, is more than twice as popular as the Renegade in Canada.

2016 Honda Accord sedan red

#4: Honda Accord – 24.0-to-1
Notice something in the U.S. top five? Three of the five are larger cars, including the “midsize” Accord and its top-ranked rival. The Accord is by no means an exception. Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima and Toyota Camry sales are 23 times stronger in the U.S.; Chevrolet Malibu volume is 19 times stronger.

2016 Chevrolet Traverse

#3: Chevrolet Traverse – 27.1-to-1
Of the 7,285 Lambda platform crossovers sold in Canada so far this year, 35 percent were Chevrolet Traverses. Of the 146,952 sold in the United States in the first seven months of 2016, 48 percent were Traverses.

2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ with tugboat, Image: © 2014 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

#2: Chevrolet Impala – 35.0-to-1
A big, traditional, American car? It doesn’t matter that Impalas have at times been Canadian-built cars, the segment has dried up in Canada. Year-over-year, Canadian Impala volume has fallen in nine consecutive years, falling 86 percent during that time span. U.S. Impala sales in 2016 are down roughly 66 percent since 2007.

2016 Nissan Altima

#1: Nissan Altima – 36.4-to-1
America’s second-best-selling car through the first-half of 2016 now ranks third behind the Honda Accord because of a severe slowdown in July. But the Altima remains a major player in a major U.S. category, claiming 15 percent market share. In Canada, however, where already weaker midsize volume is falling faster, Nissan owns less than 10 percent of the intermediate market.

2015 Mazda3 Sport Touring, Image: Mazda

CANADA

#5: Mazda3 – 1-to-3.6
Mazda Canada’s market share is falling, but the automaker still owns more than twice as much market share in Canada as in the U.S. Much of the credit goes to sales of the Mazda3, sales of which are rapidly declining but remain rather high north of the border. The 3 is Canada’s fourth-best-selling car; America’s 20th.

2015 hyundai santa fe xl

#4: Hyundai Santa Fe – 1-to-3.6
Combined Canadian sales of the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe XL (known in the U.S. as the Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe) are down 3 percent to 19,899 units this year. In a mirrored U.S. market, that would — theoretically — produce 173,000 total Santa Fe sales. Instead, Santa Fe volume is 71,772 units in the U.S., and up 8 percent so far this year.

2016 Hyundai Tucson

#3: Hyundai Tucson – 1-to-3.2
Recently relaunched in third-gen form, the Tucson is selling better than ever both in the United States and Canada. But in the showrooms of Hyundai, which owns 7.5 percent of the Canadian market but only 4.4 percent of the U.S. market, Tucson volume is far healthier north of the border.

2016 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Plus

#2: Dodge Grand Caravan – 1-to-2.6
To be fair, total sales of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Ontario-built minivans are not merely 2.6 times stronger in the U.S. than in Canada. Including the discontinued Chrysler Town & Country (always a minor presence in Canada) and its Chrysler Pacifica replacement, FCA minivan volume is 4.4 times stronger in a U.S. minivan market that is roughly six times larger than Canada’s. Nearly six out of every ten minivans sold in Canada are Grand Caravans.

2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

#1: Volkswagen Golf – 1-to-2.5
Including all bodystyles and performance variants, Volkswagen USA reported a 15 percent decline to 31,673 Golf sales in the first seven months of 2016. During the same period, Volkswagen Canada sold 12,737 Golfs, a 3-percent increase.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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37 Comments on “Poltitics of Division: These 10 New Vehicles Demarcate the U.S. and Canadian Auto Markets...”


  • avatar
    Dan R

    More practical, less emotional choices north of the border.

  • avatar
    la834

    Not at all surprised to see the Golf selling much better north of the border. Canadians get far more variety in available models and options, whereas in the States there are only about three unchangable equipment packages per model, as ever brain-dead VW of America is clamping down on buyer choice even more in 2017, like no more performance package or leather seats or sunroof in your 2-door GTI. Compare the online configurators on the U.S. and Canadian VW websites. It’s almost impossible to get a U.S. Golf euqipped as you want it.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      You can get a Jetta uber-cheap, though…it almost becomes tempting at $14,500.

      (Shakes head…naaaaah)

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I hadn’t heard that. So that means the only 2-door model you can get in the US is the S? I know that for ’16, the 2-door as a whole is listed as an order-only option at the dealer.

      I haven’t visited the Canada site, but on the UK site every option could be had a la carte. I thought the streamlining in the US was the same throughout North America due to production in Mexico.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        I believe so, only U.S. 2-door Golfs will be the Golf S and Golf GTI S (and no more performance or lighting package on the latter), and I think both will be special-order only. Yes, I too wish we got all the personalization choices the UK does. Blame the U.S. anti-special-order, buy-off-the-lot mentality; the dealers want as few choices as possible.

        See: https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/no-fixed-abode-paved-manuals-put-four-door-coupe/

        Our dealership system is broken. Thats why I’m hoping Tesla’s direct-sales model will prevail. You’re the customer, you pick the features you want on your new car.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “It’s almost impossible to get a U.S. Golf euqipped as you want it.”

      There is a noteworthy absence of Golfs that are equipped by Toyota and Honda.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    We should have let Patton just keep on going and take out Canada.

  • avatar
    TCragg

    Higher fuel prices, lower disposable incomes, and a more pragmatic mindset when it comes to car purchases pretty much sums up the Canadian vs. US markets. The anomaly is pick-up trucks, because most of them I see in my neck of the woods in southern Ontario are used like family sedans and don’t see a lot of real work.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Same deal with the pickups down here.

      Though I doubt that any of them up there would have the “Obama is a communist” stickers that they usually wear in my neck of the woods.

      • 0 avatar
        scott25

        I see a lot of “piss off a liberal, buy a gun” stickers on trucks in Ontario though.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Unfortunately, “pissing off a liberal” has become an actual ideology for way too many conservatives.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            It’s the liberal ideology that makes it so easy to pees us off and we liberals have only ourselves to blame. There are too many hotheads among us eager to play the us/them game and that makes it impossible for us and them to play nice.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      “Higher fuel prices, lower disposable incomes, and a more pragmatic mindset when it comes to car purchases pretty much sums up the Canadian vs. US markets.”

      That’s the stereotype, but percentage-wise, Canadians buy more high margin trucks/suv/cuv/vans than americans. I would also argue that the country that buys more Camrys is the more pragmatic, while the country that buys more vw’s and mazdas is more interested in driving fun.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Canada also has higher vehicle prices and, generally speaking, higher sales taxes.

      Compare the MSRP delivery charges in the two countries, and you’ll notice that Canadians typically get hit with a cost that is about double. Must be all of that snow, eh?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The Impala gets better looking every time I see one. I’m seeing a fair number of V6 models of all trim levels too.

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      I like the new Impala. It’s unfortunate about that steering wheel design though.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Hammer down, eyes on the road… hopefully I won’t notice.

        I’ve had 3.6 V6 DI VVT lust since sampling a W-Impala with one. That was the car where you bought the engine and they threw in the rest of the car for free.

        • 0 avatar
          DubTee1480

          My brother-in-law was given one of those (W-body 3.6) as a rental while his FR-S was in the body shop and he was also impressed with the go pedal. The steering wheel on my 2004 Impala SS bothered me so much that I swapped in a wheel from a similar model Monte Carlo but that was mostly about the shape of it. I think as long as I could keep the steering wheel trim that apes the trim on the dash out of my line of sight I could live with it. I wouldn’t mind seeing another Impala in my driveway again someday…

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Mercedes-Benz is the top-selling brand in both the United States and Canada; Ford is the top brand overall”

    … what?

    Which use of “top-selling” is this, exactly?

  • avatar
    rev0lver

    I wonder if the Journey is more popular in Canada. I tend to see a lot of them around my area.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    There is another statistic between the US and Canada that does make a difference. The number of vehicles per capita in Canada is much lower. From memory the US is around 750 vehicles per 1 000 and in Canuckistan its around 630 vehicles per thousand.

    Add to this the price difference or more accurately the cost of fuel as a percentage of income and I do believe Canuckistanians buy vans in lieu of large SUVs as in the US.

    The same can be said for the smaller cars. The price of fuel plays a significant role.

    As for pickups, well, import them from Thailand into Canada and I would like to see a the difference it makes.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      The reason for lower vehicles per capita in Canada is that cars don’t last as long here. We buy just as many new cars, but we don’t keep the old ones around. Most provinces have safety inspections, so we can’t even sell the old ones.

      Add to that the high cost of insurance and registration, and there is no incentive to keep an old rustbucket parked in the driveway.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Fuel prices.
    Exorbitant sales tax/GST/HST rates.
    Almost criminal transport/PDI fees.
    Higher prices overall.
    The use of road salt, rusting out vehicles faster.
    The fact that due to having a smaller market and cars not lasting as long (rust) the used car market is overpriced and has less choice.
    The existence of winter/bad weather for half of the year.
    Increasing urbanization, as for example over 13% of all Canadians live in the GTHA.
    The ‘European’ influence still apparent in consumer preferences in Quebec.

    These all lead Canadians to different buying decisions. Corollas instead of Camrys. Civics instead of Accords. CRV’s instead of sedans. Caravans instead of large SUV’s. And a lingering market for hatchbacks. ‘micro’-vans and wagons.

  • avatar

    Canadians buys more vehicles overall compared to the US.

    YTD July Canada 1,162,481

    YTD July US 10,156,215

    1,163,481 x 9 = 10,462,329 for the US.

    Historically “bigger” vehicles were always more popular in the US.

    Canadian climatic conditions generate additional wear and tear on all vehicles. Especially in the 2 largest markets Ontario and Quebec where the roads get salted profusely in winter.

    Why do Canadians buy more vehicles than Americans?

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      As I told Big Al above, it’s because cars don’t last as long in Canada. The roads are worse, and rust is a big issue.

      Many provinces have mandatory safety and emissions inspections on resale, which means that many old cars get crushed instead of finding a third/fourth owner.

      This also explains why the Canadian market favors cheaper cars. Some families who would be shopping used cars in the US are buying new in Canada.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    Now, I live in a mjor urban centre, so my view is skewed, but the Greater Toronto Area *does* account for about 15% of all Canadians, so it is a pretty big share of our market.

    If you count Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary urban centres, that’s nearly 12 million people, or about two-fifths of the country. Given that these are also the financial centres of the country, that means that most of the cars purchased are going to be more urban-friendly than not.

    Families buy minivans, it used to be aerostars and the like, but then the caravan appeared and never looked back. Pickups are rare here, but I’m sure are plentiful in farm country just like anywhere else. They *suck* to park in the big city though, as do mammoth SUVs, so I see a lot less of those around. That being said, head up north at all and AWD SUVs are practically required equipment.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    About the Renegade: I think it’s priced high in Canada, and it hasn’t proven itself yet.

    It’s also small for the market. You gotta be able to fit hockey gear in the back to appeal to Canadian families.

    The typical urban Canadian driveway has one crossover and one compact. Getting a compact crossover doesn’t make sense, because you still need a bigger crossover to haul the kids around to hockey practice.

    The Tucson is a little bigger, and has proven to be reliable in our conditions.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Is there a larger percentage of large families in Canada?

  • avatar

    I’d be interested to how this data looks (a) with Quebec taken out, and (b) looking specifically at southern Ontario, the BC lower mainland, and Alberta. Those markets are probably most similar to the US market in taste and, more importantly, account for about 75% of the Canadian market outside Quebec.

    I notice huge regional differences just in Canada. I grew up in southwestern Ontario — basically the same market as Michigan and Ohio. Heavy preference for midsize to large sedans (especially the W-body Impala and Taurus) and full-size pickup trucks. Then I lived in Alberta, at the tail end of the last oil boom. Very full-size SUV friendly (esp Tahoe and Escalade). Now I’m in Halifax, where the market skews to the sort of cars seen in this article — Cruzes, Corollas, and all Hyundais are very thick on the ground. As with so many things, the east-west differences are probably ultimately more pronounced than the cross-border differences.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The big differences are rural/urban.
    The big cities favor compacts, minivans and crossovers. Outside of town you’ll see mostly pickups, larger cars and crossovers.

    Downtown traffic in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver is mostly the same. Rural Alberta is a dead ringer for rural Quebec or rural Ontario.

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    > To be fair, total sales of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Ontario-built minivans are not merely 2.6 times stronger in the U.S. than in Canada.

    Shouldn’t that have been “2.6 times stronger in Canada than in the U.S.” ?


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