Canadian Auto Sales Would Have to Plummet in Final Third of 2017 for This to Not Be the Industry's Best Year Ever

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
canadian auto sales would have to plummet in final third of 2017 for this to not be

Canadian 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 BrandAug. 2017Aug. 2016% Change2017 YTD2016 YTD% ChangeFord26,60128,213-5.7%209,536203,0723.2%Toyota17,95016,6597.7%137,012136,0190.7%Honda16,71915,7646.1%123,700111,30311.1%Chevrolet16,21112,75127.1%116,49298,61218.1%Nissan11,97010,52113.8%92,57384,9848.9%Hyundai11,94913,405-10.9%91,271100,630-9.3%GMC9,8986,96942.0%67,47555,48721.6%Volkswagen9,0325,25371.9%45,22142,6506.0%Ram8,4476,61527.7%76,95266,39815.9%Kia7,6926,68815.0%51,93249,5334.8%Mazda7,0366,5467.5%50,13446,7467.2%Jeep6,0346,416-6.0%50,35159,342-15.2%Subaru4,9504,5129.7%35,83732,6379.8%Dodge4,3556,836-36.3%54,65459,109-7.5%Mercedes-Benz4,2163,71913.4%34,80331,08712.0%Audi3,2922,59726.8%24,67520,66219.4%BMW3,0402,9503.1%24,82324,6430.7%Lexus2,0861,9725.8%16,26814,29413.8%Mitsubishi2,0502,056-0.3%15,41815,1941.5%Acura1,6322,064-20.9%12,69812,925-1.8%Buick1,5971,667-4.2%12,45712,4180.3%Cadillac1,2751,1609.9%8,9057,48718.9%Infiniti1,19398720.9%8,3147,5729.8%Porsche78568913.9%5,3644,73013.4%Land Rover73266010.9%6,0016,066-1.1%Lincoln685769-10.9%5,6885,5233.0%Chrysler6131,580-61.2%10,26612,220-16.0%Mini589625-5.8%4,4884,4560.7%Volvo5725680.7%4,3834,2752.5%Jaguar39034114.4%3,2171,71287.9%Alfa Romeo12191244%42553702%Fiat78171-54.4%2,0411,61326.5%Maserati7520275%901333171%Genesis55——328——Smart25282-91.1%244935-73.9%————— ——General Motors28,98122,54728.5%205,329174,00418.0%Ford Motor Company27,28628,982-5.9%215,224208,5953.2%Toyota Canada20,03618,6317.5%153,280150,3132.0%Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group19,69620,093-2.0%143,531150,163-4.4%Fiat Chrysler Automobiles19,64821,627-9.2%194,689198,735-2.0%Honda Canada18,35117,8282.9%136,398124,2289.8%Nissan/Infiniti/Mitsubishi15,21313,56412.2%116,305107,7507.9%Volkswagen Group13,1098,53953.5%75,26068,04210.6%Mercedes-Benz Canada4,2414,0016.0%35,04732,0229.4%BMW Group3,6293,5751.5%29,31129,0990.7%Jaguar-Land Rover1,1221,00112.1%9,2187,77818.5%———————Industry Total183,945172,0346.9% 1,404,8471,334,7205.3%

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.

Join the conversation
14 of 17 comments
  • Cactuar Cactuar on Sep 06, 2017

    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!

    • See 11 previous
    • 9Exponent 9Exponent on Sep 07, 2017

      @Cactuar This isn't Twitter. You can add more than 140 characters to a single post.

  • Ra_pro Ra_pro on Sep 07, 2017

    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?

  • MRF 95 T-Bird I bet it has some electrical gremlins as well. Nonetheless it might make an interesting El Camino pickup truck conversation with one of those kits.
  • GrumpyOldMan "A manual transmission is offered, as is a single-clutch auto. "What is a single clutch auto?
  • ToolGuy It is raining super-hard outside right now.
  • Analoggrotto It's getting awful hard to tell these Mercedes apart from one another.
  • Analoggrotto Ah the Fisher Price car for the uncoolest of uncool dad-bods.