Auto sales in Canada began 2015 the same way they ended 2014 – on the increase. Sales of 99,051 new vehicles in January were up 3.4% from the same month last year and the highest they've been at this point in the year since 2008. It's the 10th straight month of year-over-year sales increases.
As it did a year ago, Chrysler (with a 2.0% gain) topped the January sales charts, well ahead of Ford ( 0.4%), which rode a late-year surge to claim first place for the full 2014 calendar year. General Motors ( 5.3%), was equally far behind Ford in third, although it was the only one of the big three to increase sales more than the industry average.
“A relatively mild winter along with sustained lower fuel prices have been contributing factors to the sales growth,” says David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada.
Lower gasoline prices probably played a role in the continued rise in truck sales, as well. They were up 8.4% from last January, while passenger car sales fell by 4.2%. Truck sales (including utility vehicle) accounted for 64.5% of the market in January compared with 61.6% a year ago.
As positive as those figures appear to be, industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers cautions against reading too much into them. January is traditionally the poorest month of the year for sales and there's always a lot of “flexibility” in the numbers at the end of the year, he explains.
With automakers fighting for supremacy in various segments of the market, it's not uncommon to bring sales forward or otherwise “finesse” year-end performance, resulting in distorted sales results for January. Bearing out that observation, there was a lot of volatility apparent in January's figures with significant variations in performance among brands.
It should also be noted that the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR) for January (1.73-million) was the lowest it has been since last May. And, it's the third consecutive month it has declined.
On the positive side, Adams notes that the 2015 model year will feature the highest number of new model introductions in the last 30 years, "which is always a magnet for consumer demand in the marketplace." He adds: "At the end of the day, the automotive business is all about three things – product, product and product.”