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Canadian auto sales fall in May for third month in a row

2018 sales to date remain ahead of last year’s record pace – barely!

Gerry Malloy
Published: June 6, 2018, 3:40 PM
Updated: June 10, 2018, 2:52 AM

New car storage lot - New cars

Widespread predictions of a softening in the Canadian auto market for 2018 came into question after continued record sales in January and February. Now, however, those predictions seem to be materializing as new-vehicle sales fell in May for the third month in a row.

They didn’t fall much, however, as overall sales of 215,407 vehicles were just 0.7% below those for the same month last year and the second-best ever for the month.

As a result, based on the strength of the first two months, sales of 836,522 new vehicles through the first five months are still the best ever, albeit just 0.1% ahead of those for the same period last year.

New Car Delivery

In addition, May’s SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Sales Rate) once again topped 2-million, after a slight dip in April, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC),

All of which has prompted Scotiabank Economics to raise its annual forecast from 1.95-million to 2.05-million – which would be another new record – according to Automotive News Canada. (Canadian sales in 2017 were 2.04-million.)

Light trucks, the definition of which includes very car-like crossovers and SUVS, continued to dominate the market in May, with truck sales up 4.0% from a year ago, while passenger car sales fell, by 9.4%. Passenger car sales claimed 29.6% of the market, compared to 70.4% for trucks, crossovers and SUVs.

Tight race to be #1

There’s a tight race at the top of the sales charts for the number-one ranking.

#1 for the month - Ford was the best-selling automaker for the month.

For the second month in a row, Ford claimed that honour in May with 33,341 vehicles sold. According to the company, it was the best May ever for sales of the industry-leading F-Series pickup.

In spite of being #1, Ford’s sales were down 3.3% from May 2017, however, and its year-to-date sales of 124,391 vehicles, down 3.3%, leaving the blue oval in second place behind General Motors for the year to date, through the first five months.

GM maintained its hold on the top spot year-to-date with 127,299 sales, up 3.2% from last year. It ranked second in May with 32, 831 sales, up 5.4% from last year but about 500 behind Ford for the month.

FCA (formerly Chrysler) was a distant third in the sales race for both the month and the year, losing ground to both its Detroit-three counterparts. May sales of 28,193 vehicles were down 15.0% from the same month last year and year-to-date sales of 12,332 were down 9.9%.

2018 GMC Terrain

Year-to-date, the Detroit three collectively gave up 1.5% of market share, falling to 43.5%. GM gained 0.4%, to 15.2%, but Ford fell by the same amount to 14.9% and FCA gave up 1.5%, dropping to 13.4%.

Toyota, in fourth-place, sold 22,021 units in May, up 1.9% from last year, and 3.3% YTD, bumping the Japanese sales leader’s market share by 0.3% to 10.0.

Fifth-place Honda’s 19,794 sales were up 3.2% in May, helping boost year-to-date gains to 1.5% and market share by 0.1%, to 8.8%.

Best of the rest

Hyundai barely hung onto sixth place for the month with 13,963 sales, down 8.9% from a year ago, but year-to-date, it is in seventh place, with sales down 11.6% and a share decline of 0.8% to 5.7%.

Nissan was a close seventh for the month, with sales of 13,236 units up 3.2% from last year but it maintained sixth place year-to-date with cumulative sales up 3.1% from a year ago and market share up by 0.2% to 6.7%.

Mazda logo

Mazda surpassed Kia to reclaim eighth-place in May with 7,750 sales, up 6.9% from a year ago. Year to-date-sales were up by 5.4%, supporting the brand’s eighth-place ranking and a 0.2% gain in market share, to 3.7%.

Kia’s 3.5% sales decline in May dropped it to ninth place in the rankings, for both the month and year-to-date. Sales are down by 0.2% for the first five months, although Kia’s market share remained steady at 3.4%

Volkswagen’s sales continued an upward trend in May, gaining 11.4% from a year ago. Year-to-date, they’re 20.9% ahead of last year and VW’s market share increased by 0.5% to 3.1%.

Subaru is now solidly in 11th place, followed by Mercedes-Benz – the best-selling luxury brand

Further down the luxury rankings, Audi surpassed BMW for both the month and the year-to-date, but the cumulative difference between the two is just 135 units making it the tightest race in the industry.

Winners and losers

Winners & Losers - There were losers as well as winners on the monthly sales chart. 

On a percentage basis, the biggest winners in March were Genesis (+125.8%), Volvo (+41.8%), Land Rover (+28.7%) and Mitsubishi (+20.1%).

The biggest losers, in percentage terms, were Maserati (-31.4%), Infiniti (-15.6%), FCA (-15.0%), Hyundai (-8.9%), and Lexus (-8.3%).