Poltitics of Division: These 10 New Vehicles Demarcate the U.S. and Canadian Auto Markets

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
poltitics of division these 10 new vehicles demarcate the u s and canadian auto

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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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2 of 37 comments
  • Heavy handle Heavy handle on Aug 19, 2016

    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.

  • BigOldChryslers BigOldChryslers on Aug 19, 2016

    > 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." ?

  • ToolGuy T E L L U R I D E is not on this list(I can keep my poster on the wall)
  • ToolGuy My impression is that Honda has been coasting on its reputation for awhile now.(To Honda's credit, they aren't standing on the Self Destruct button like Toyota seems to be)
  • Fred I owned a 2001 MR2 for 15 years nothing ever went wrong with the vehicle. It was always exciting to drive most people thought it was a boxster. The only negative was storage and legroom considering I'm a little over 6:4 the only reason it was sold was as a second car and a grandchild on the way we needed something more practical.
  • V16 I'm sure most people could find 155,365 reasons to choose another luxury brand SUV and pocket the difference.
  • ChristianWimmer I don’t want this autonomous driving garbage technology in any car.My main fear is this. Once this technology is perfected, freedom-hating eco hysterical governments (crap hole Germany, UK and the European Union in general) will attempt to ban private car ownership because “you don’t need to own a car anymore since the car can come to you, drop you off and then proceed to service the next customer”... no thanks. Having your own car is FREEDOM.Go away, autonomous driving. I also enjoy the act of driving a car. I want to drive, not be driven.