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Canadian auto sales ease off in April

General Motors claims the top sales spot for the second month in a row

Published: May 3, 2017, 5:20 AM
Updated: May 6, 2017, 4:35 AM

New cars in storage

After three consecutive record months to kick off the year, the pace of auto sales in Canada slacked off slightly in April. But it was a very good month for General Motors, which claimed the top sales spot for the second month in a row.

Total sales of 197,203 new cars, trucks and SUVs were down 1.6% from March 2016’s record tally. Still they were the second-highest for any April ever and almost 10% ahead of the five-year average for the month, according to David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC).

Reinforcing the strength of that result, the Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Sales Rate (SAAR) for April was 1.99 million, according to Dennis DesRosiers, of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC). That’s makes it the fourth month in a row in the 2-million range, the most consistent four-month period in several years.

And cumulative sales of 618,721 vehicles for the first four months are the highest ever for the period, 2.5% ahead of last year’s record pace.

In spite of that extremely strong start, however, industry analysts predict that 2017 won’t be the fourth record year in a row – although it could well be the second-best year ever.

According to DesRosiers, the comparables for the rest of the year are very high – 2016 sales were extremely strong – “So we expect this (trend) will continue and that by the end of the year sales will actually be down slightly versus 2016.”

He added that, “we’re not expecting a free fall … only continued softness.”

GM leads April sales

GMC logo

For the second month in a row, General Motors was the sales leader in April with 30.948 vehicles sold, an increase of 16.4% from the same month last year.

Continuing the trend of the first three months, the sales race remained tight, however, as Ford was fewer than 600 vehicles behind with 30,385 sales – up 0.2%.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the sales leader through the first two months, dropped back to third with 27,373 vehicles sold, down 9.1% from last April

Cumulative sales for the year to date show Ford ( 1.4%) now in first place, with GM ( 13.4%) in second and FCA (-1.6%) in third. All three are separated by fewer than 1600 vehicle sales, however, so the race remains wide open.

In terms of market share, Ford holds a 15.0% share (-0.2%), followed by GM at 14.9% ( 1.4%) and FCA at 14.8% (-0.6%).

Tight races throughout top ten

2017 Honda CR-V

Toyota remains solidly in fourth place, in spite of a sales decline of 9.9% in April and 5.0% year-to-date. But Honda ( 5.9% in April and 9.0% YTD) has made significant gains on its Japanese rival – although the two are still about 6,000 units apart.

Hyundai (-0.3%) regained sixth place from Nissan (-8.1%) for the month, although the Japanese brand retains the position year-to-date.

Kia (-6.5%) repassed Mazda (-9.3%) for eighth in April, although that order is also reversed year-to-date.

And Subaru ( 8.6%) outpaced Volkswagen (-30.1%) for tenth, pushing Mercedes-Benz ( 3.8%) back to 12th for the month.

Year-to-date, however that order is Mercedes-Benz -Subaru-Volkswagen.

In percentage terms, the big gainers in March were Jaguar ( 157.4%) and Maserati ( 112.3%), while the losers were led by Smart (-60.0%), Volkswagen (-30.1%) and Acura (-23.3&).

Continuing the long-standing trend, truck sales, including SUVs, were up 2.5% from April 2016, accounting for 68.0% of the market year-to-date, while passenger car sales fell by 8.7%.

Ford’s F-Series continued to be the best-selling truck and the best-selling vehicle overall, while the Honda Civic was the best-selling passenger car.

[NOTE: Data quoted in this report were sourced from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, Global Automakers of Canada and individual automakers.]