U.S. Auto Sales Continue Downward Slide, But Canada's Winning the Race

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
u s auto sales continue downward slide but canadas winning the race

Compared to previous months, May was a great month for U.S. light vehicle sales. Volume almost broke even on a year-over-year basis, falling a mere 0.3 percent. Keep in mind that last year was a high water mark for the industry, and average transaction prices are nudging into premium territory.

Still, year-to-date sales are down in the U.S. to the tune of 2.4 percent, with May’s slim loss serving as the fifth consecutive monthly decline. To that, Canada says, “Hold my Molson.”

Last month was the Great White North’s 15th consecutive month of falling auto sales, with volume dropping 5.9 percent, year over year. Year to date, Canadian auto sales fell 4.4 percent. Unlike the U.S.’s slim volume gain for 2018, sales fell 1.9 percent — the country’s first sales loss since the recession.

It seems Canada has a head start on the long-awaited industry cool-off period.

What brands are doing well in Canada, you ask? It’s not a long list. According to data published by Automotive News Canada, if you’re a Korean brand, then value-seeking Canucks are your best friend. Sales of the Hyundai brand are up 8 percent, year to date, with Kia rising 6.1 percent through the end of May. Genesis? After 2018’s tumult, sales rose 48 percent, year to date. Mitsubishi, darling of the province of Quebec, is up 5.1 percent for the year.

Elsewhere in the sort-of value realm, Volkswagen’s sales rose 6.6 percent in May and 3.9 percent for the year. The Toyota brand rose 9 percent in May for a 4.5 percent YTD gain.

Elsewhere, mainstream brands cooled off, while domestic makes took a plunge. No one is worse off that Fiat Chrysler, which saw its brands slide a collective 25.4 percent in May. Year to date, FCA brands are down 14.4 percent. Not a single FCA marque came close to posting a sales gain either last month or this year.

Things aren’t all that much better at General Motors, which recorded a 14.1 percent May dip and a 13.1 percent YTD decline. In GM’s stable, only Cadillac saw a volume increase in May (18.7 percent), with sales through the end of the month up 22.3 percent. Buick has thus far managed to eke out a slight YTD volume increase (1.1 percent).

Ford’s fortunes aren’t as bleak. The country’s most popular brand was the only domestic marque to see a year-over-year increase last month, with sales rising a mere 0.8 percent. That was enough to keep Ford’s YTD volume in the black (0.3 percent).

As brands like Honda, Chevrolet, Mazda, Subaru, and Nissan lick their wounds, tonier brands seem to have no trouble picking up new buyers. Infiniti’s up 3.6 percent for the year, Lexus is up 11.4 percent, and Volvo’s up 9.1 percent. Porsche? It’s up 5.5 percent. Tesla, a brand that does not count as a purveyor of everyman green vehicles, has seen its volume rise 132 percent thus far. Even Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Maclaren are enjoying sales gains in 2019.

The Big German Three? Sorry, Canadian buyers said “Nein!”

[Image: General Motors, Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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2 of 4 comments
  • Conundrum Conundrum on Jun 04, 2019

    The homegrown brands were bought out by GM in the 1920s. So, there are none, and essentially, never have been.

  • Jimmeh72 Jimmeh72 on Jun 05, 2019

    I am not surprised that sales are down, have you been inside any showrooms lately? GM was the worst with the most dismal lineup of aged feeling or uninspired SUVs out there, not to mention an auto-start system that can't be disabled. For $45-$55k (Canadian), I found nothing that felt like it was better than my current 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The only vehicle I liked was a new Grand Cherokee, in the Summit trim and a V8 but in the end, I couldn't justify spending that much for such an aged vehicle when I already have the 2012 version that has low mileage and has never had an issue. I am going to wait two more years - by that time, the next Grand Cherokee and MDX will both be out, and hopefully some other competitors. I can't be the only one who wants to buy a new vehicle but can't find one I like!

  • 3SpeedAutomatic Drove a rental Cherokee for several days at the beginning of this year. Since the inventory of rental cars is still low, this was a 2020 model with 48k miles and V6. Ran fine, no gremlins, graphics display was easy to work, plenty of power, & very comfortable. Someone must of disarmed the lane assistance feature for the steering wheel never shook (YES!!!!!!!!). However, this woman's voice kept nagging me about the speed limit (what's new!?!?!?!).I was impressed enough to consider this a prime candidate to replace my 11 yr old Ford Escape. Might get a good deal with the close out of the model. Time will tell. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Bullnuke One wonders if this poor woman entered the US through Roxham Road...
  • Johnds Years ago I pulled over a vehicle from either Manitoba or Ontario in North Dakota for speeding. The license plates and drivers license did not come up on my dispatchers computer. The only option was to call their government. Being that it was 2 am, that wasn’t possible so they were given a warning.
  • BEPLA My own theory/question on the Mark VI:Had Lincoln used the longer sedan wheelbase on the coupe - by leaning the windshield back and pushing the dashboard & steering wheel rearward a bit - not built a sedan - and engineered the car for frameless side windows (those framed windows are clunky, look cheap, and add too many vertical lines in comparison to the previous Marks) - Would the VI have remained an attractive, aspirational object of desire?
  • VoGhost Another ICEbox? Pass. Where are you going to fill your oil addiction when all the gas stations disappear for lack of demand? I want a pickup that I can actually use for a few decades.