Market update: Auto sales continue to slide

Serge McGraw (centre) chose Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV for its load capacity and its ability to run on 100 per cent electric. He is shown with (left) François Roy, general manager, Québec Mitsubishi, and Marco Sauvageau, sales director, Québec Mitsubishi. Photo courtesy Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada.

By CRM staff

Toronto – December 10, 2018 — New vehicle sales in Canada were down 9.4 percent in November, continuing a slide that has been going on for eight months. Vehicle sales last month dropped to 143,668 units sold with year-to-date sales of 1,870,703, down 2.3 percent from last year’s record sales volume, according to Global Automakers of Canada.

All of the Big Three automakers recorded fewer sales this year than in November 2017, says David Adams, president of Global Automakers of Canada. “Each of the Detroit-based companies took double-digit sales losses – with FCA was down a full 35 percent. Any time all three companies are down significantly the whole market will be down as well,” he adds.

Members of Global Automakers of Canada had better-than-market results for the 11th straight month, says Adams. In November, member companies’ sales of 90,793 were down 1.5 percent compared with the previous year.

Ford sold the most vehicles in November, taking the sales crown from General Motors. With one month to go Ford retains the overall sales lead on a year-to-date basis. Notably, Toyota had a new November sales record and was third in sales for the month, and only about 500 units behind GM for second spot, according to GAC.

The Ford F-Series pick-up truck also remains Canada’s best-selling vehicle through November, while the Honda Civic retains that distinction for passenger cars.

Alex Koustas, an economist with BMO Capital Markets, put things in perspective in a recent client note. Yes, Canada’s November auto sales figures show the largest year-over-year decline since the recession. But, Koustas says sales in both the U.S. and Canada “are historically strong, particularly given the stage of the economic cycle, albeit they are gradually drifting lower. U.S.-Canada sales are set to top 19 million units for the third straight year, a mark never reached in previous cycles.”

He concludes sales in Canada have peaked but total vehicle sales are still expected to surpass 2 million units in 2018 for only the second time on record.

Koustas goes on to say “demographic growth in Canada is supportive of sustained volume strength; the driving-age population is growing at a rate of 1.3 percent compared to 0.9 percent in the U.S.” Also, the Canadian market has relatively low saturation, with the vehicle ownership rate still in the low 80 percent range. Koustas believes a “fair portion” of current non-owners would be more likely to participate in the used vehicle market.

What’s going on with electric vehicles?
Toyota Canada reported record hybrid sales for November with 2,039 units sold, up 21 percent compared to 2017. Hybrid sales represented 10.9 percent of Toyota Canada’s total sales for the month.

Meanwhile Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada reports that is plug-in hybrid has reached 5,000 sales in the calendar year. Mitsubishi says its Outlander PHEV is Canada’s best-selling plug-in hybrid and Canada’s best-selling plug-in hybrid SUV, with 5,052 units delivered year-to-date.

The company says most Outlander PHEV customers were previously owners of gas-only SUVs and cars. “As the first affordable plug-in hybrid SUV in the market, we’re helping to significantly grow adoption to EV. We are very proud of that,” said Tony Laframboise, president and CEO, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada.

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