By on September 6, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Silverado - Image: ChevroletCanadian auto sales climbed to an all-time record high in 2013, jumping past the 1.7-million mark for the first time since 2002. The industry bettered that total in 2014, topped 2014’s total in 2015, and set a new record in 2016.

While U.S. auto sales continue to fall, sliding 2 percent in August and 3 percent through the first two-thirds of 2017, Canadian auto sales in August 2017 improved for a fourth consecutive month and the seventh month so far this year. Moreover, the improvements have been anything but modest. An 11-percent uptick in May was followed up by a 6-percent June increase, a 5-percent July increase, and a 7-percent August rise.

In fact, so strong are Canadian auto sales through the first two-thirds of 2017 that disaster would need to strike in the final four months of the year in order for 2017 not to be the best year ever for the Canadian auto industry.

Disaster appears unlikely.

After exceeding the sales total of 2016’s first eight months by 70,000 units in 2017’s first eight months, automakers competing in Canada need only sell 545,000 new vehicles in the remaining four months of the year to set yet another annual record.

The auto industry generated 615,000 sales during the final four months of 2016.

That means that even an 11-percent year-over-year drop in auto sales — the kind of decline Canada’s auto industry hasn’t seen since the recession of 2009 — wouldn’t be enough to stop the industry from reporting best-ever auto sales in 2017. If such a possibility seemed remotely likely when April volume slid 2 percent, the rapid growth achieved by the industry over the summer has all but eliminated such a prospect.

August’s results were the latest to strongly suggest that Canadians are hungrier than ever for new vehicles. Passenger car volume rose marginally; light truck sales jumped 11 percent to form 68 percent of new vehicle sales.

The highest-volume August in history was made possible in large part by a massive 29-percent jump at General Motors, equal to 6,434 additional sales, year-over-year. GM pickup truck volume shot up 51 percent to 15,109 units, more than half of GM Canada’s total volume. GM outsold all other automakers in Canada — a regular occurrence south of the border but not an ordinary achievement for GM Canada — as regular No.1 Ford Motor Company fell 6 percent and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles volume tumbled 9 percent.

GM was hardly the only high achiever in August, however. Volkswagen volume jumped 72 percent thanks to a tripling of SUV/crossover sales, driving the brand’s market share up from 3.1 percent in August 2016 to 4.9 percent in August 2017.

Audi, Infiniti, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Porsche all reported double-digit percentage gains. The Honda brand was up 6 percent on strong Civic sales. Despite passenger car malaise, the Civic is on track for its 20th consecutive year as Canada’s best-selling car thanks to a record pace through the first eight months of the year. Total Toyota volume rose 8 percent as the Corolla and RAV4, the automaker’s two top sellers, both reported meaningful gains. Mazda also reported an 8-percent rise, Subaru was up nearly 10 percent, and BMW reported 4 percent growth.

That left Acura and Hyundai as the major outliers. Acura sales tumbled 21 percent as sales of every model in the lineup save the TLX declined on a year-over-year basis. Even the crossover duo was down 24 percent.

Hyundai, meanwhile, reported the brand’s 11th decline in the last 12 months — an 11-percent drop caused by the brand’s (increasingly less) high-volume cars. The Accent, admittedly approaching a replacement phase, joined the Elantra and Sonata in losing 16 percent of their August volume. Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe XL volume dipped, as well. The Tucson’s 67-percent increase was the brand’s saving grace.

Top-tier vehicle lines continue to exert inordinate control over the Canadian market. The Ford F-Series, Ram P/U, Honda Civic, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Toyota RAV4 — the six best-selling vehicles in August — produced more than one-quarter of the industry’s sales last month. That’s more than Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, and Subaru combined.

Auto Brand Aug. 2017 Aug. 2016 % Change 2017 YTD 2016 YTD % Change
Ford 26,601 28,213 -5.7% 209,536 203,072 3.2%
Toyota 17,950 16,659 7.7% 137,012 136,019 0.7%
Honda 16,719 15,764 6.1% 123,700 111,303 11.1%
Chevrolet 16,211 12,751 27.1% 116,492 98,612 18.1%
Nissan 11,970 10,521 13.8% 92,573 84,984 8.9%
Hyundai 11,949 13,405 -10.9% 91,271 100,630 -9.3%
GMC 9,898 6,969 42.0% 67,475 55,487 21.6%
Volkswagen 9,032 5,253 71.9% 45,221 42,650 6.0%
Ram 8,447 6,615 27.7% 76,952 66,398 15.9%
Kia 7,692 6,688 15.0% 51,932 49,533 4.8%
Mazda 7,036 6,546 7.5% 50,134 46,746 7.2%
Jeep 6,034 6,416 -6.0% 50,351 59,342 -15.2%
Subaru 4,950 4,512 9.7% 35,837 32,637 9.8%
Dodge 4,355 6,836 -36.3% 54,654 59,109 -7.5%
Mercedes-Benz 4,216 3,719 13.4% 34,803 31,087 12.0%
Audi 3,292 2,597 26.8% 24,675 20,662 19.4%
BMW 3,040 2,950 3.1% 24,823 24,643 0.7%
Lexus 2,086 1,972 5.8% 16,268 14,294 13.8%
Mitsubishi 2,050 2,056 -0.3% 15,418 15,194 1.5%
Acura 1,632 2,064 -20.9% 12,698 12,925 -1.8%
Buick 1,597 1,667 -4.2% 12,457 12,418 0.3%
Cadillac 1,275 1,160 9.9% 8,905 7,487 18.9%
Infiniti 1,193 987 20.9% 8,314 7,572 9.8%
Porsche 785 689 13.9% 5,364 4,730 13.4%
Land Rover 732 660 10.9% 6,001 6,066 -1.1%
Lincoln 685 769 -10.9% 5,688 5,523 3.0%
Chrysler 613 1,580 -61.2% 10,266 12,220 -16.0%
Mini 589 625 -5.8% 4,488 4,456 0.7%
Volvo 572 568 0.7% 4,383 4,275 2.5%
Jaguar 390 341 14.4% 3,217 1,712 87.9%
Alfa Romeo 121 9 1244% 425 53 702%
Fiat 78 171 -54.4% 2,041 1,613 26.5%
Maserati 75 20 275% 901 333 171%
Genesis 55 328
Smart 25 282 -91.1% 244 935 -73.9%
General Motors 28,981 22,547 28.5% 205,329 174,004 18.0%
Ford Motor Company 27,286 28,982 -5.9% 215,224 208,595 3.2%
Toyota Canada 20,036 18,631 7.5% 153,280 150,313 2.0%
Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group 19,696 20,093 -2.0% 143,531 150,163 -4.4%
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles 19,648 21,627 -9.2% 194,689 198,735 -2.0%
Honda Canada 18,351 17,828 2.9% 136,398 124,228 9.8%
Nissan/Infiniti/Mitsubishi 15,213 13,564 12.2% 116,305 107,750 7.9%
Volkswagen Group 13,109 8,539 53.5% 75,260 68,042 10.6%
Mercedes-Benz Canada 4,241 4,001 6.0% 35,047 32,022 9.4%
BMW Group 3,629 3,575 1.5% 29,311 29,099 0.7%
Jaguar-Land Rover 1,122 1,001 12.1% 9,218 7,778 18.5%
Industry Total

Source: Global Automakers Of Canada

[Image: General Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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17 Comments on “Canadian Auto Sales Would Have to Plummet in Final Third of 2017 for This to Not Be the Industry’s Best Year Ever...”

  • avatar

    Climate change. All we hear is the negativity, the “Stronger Atlantic hurricanes!” this, or the “Tuvalu will be underwater in 10 years!” that.

    But what about the morale of people living in places like Canada? Maybe in 50 years, Sweden won’t produce any more death metal. Has anyone thought of the positives?

    • 0 avatar

      @ash78 – Yes that increased warmth is very welcome causing a Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic wiping out forests along with record forest fire seasons. Add to that severe tick infestations in large mammals like moose. I’m also not a fan of extra road damage due to frequent freeze/thaw cycles.
      I don’t mind the absence of -45C for weeks at a time but as previously listed, it does serve a purpose.

  • avatar

    Disaster appears unlikely.

    Cue NK missile attack. BTW Canada has no anti-missle defense. A fact the Canadian government keeps hushed up. They had ADATS, but it was mothballed for a planned upgrade to MMEV which was then cancelled. Now they have nothing.

  • avatar

    Broke people buying expensive cars, keep it up folks. New survey is in today: 42% of Ontarians are living paycheck to paycheck. Nice car though!

    • 0 avatar

      43% of Ontarians save only 5% of their paycheck. On a 6000$/mo income that’s 300$. NICE TRUCK THO!

      Most of us will retire broke but at least we’ll have driven awesome cars amirite? YOLO!

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve wondered about this, too. You usually don’t know you’re in a bubble until it pops, but we’ve been in a car bubble for a while now. That, along with unpaid student loans and pension liabilities will come back to haunt us all.

    • 0 avatar

      British Columbia joins in the fun too! New survey data today: 59% of employees in BC are living paycheck to paycheck. NICE 320i MAN!

    • 0 avatar


      I could go on.

      • 0 avatar

        Didn’t the Canadian fed just raise interest rates? If that’s a trend, I don’t see this going well for debtors.

        • 0 avatar

          Indeed. There is talk of another 0.25 bump happening this fall.

        • 0 avatar

          They want to “cool” the economy with interest rate increases but as previously mentioned, most can’t absorb the increased interest rates. If one goes on the premise of a minimum of 5 years on a mortgage, that means we won’t see all of the fall out until 2020.

          I’m kinda pizzed off since I was going to renew early at 2.25% a month ago but since my wife wants to be my ex, I’m stuck waiting until the separation agreement clears the lawyers.

          • 0 avatar

            Let’s hope the family courts in Canada run better than the ones here in Colorado.

            Here, a judge just has to ascertain one pertinent fact before crucifying you financially: that you have one X and one Y chromosome.

          • 0 avatar

            @FreedMike – as long as the ex and I are in agreement over the separation agreement our courts don’t have much involvement other than to rubber stamp it. She hasn’t been too stupid with her requests and on a few items I’m keeping my mouth shut.
            We are splitting custody 50:50 (I’m keeping a log on my lawyer’s recommendation since I suspect they will be with me the majority of the time) and she earns almost as much as I so she doesn’t have much of a leg to stand upon for extorting excess child support.

  • avatar

    We are losing the old Canadian values of being thrifty, frugal, moderate. We are spending money like drunken soldiers on things we don’t need.

    I live in Mississauga and I see exotic cars daily. 15-20 years people in Mississauga didn’t know what an exotic car was unless they ventured to Forrest Hill. There are so many new MB cars around Mississauga that I haven’t seen anything like this even in Munich a couple of weeks ago.

    The number of palaces being built outside of GTA for small families is mind-boggling. Also old retired people are getting estates built at the cost of 5-10 million where they live alone.

    This can’t end well. The only question is how long can it continue?

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