Break out the champagne! Sales of 1,898,485 new cars, trucks and utility vehicles in Canada in 2015 set a new all-time sales record – the third in three years – surpassing last year's record by a margin of 2.5% and more than 47,000 vehicles.
Give a toast to FCA (formerly Chrysler) as well, for after several years of coming close, it finally became the best-selling automaker in Canada, for the first time ever.
Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC) credited "product, product and product … a dizzying array of new products jam packed with advanced technologies," for driving 2015 sales to a new pinnacle.
“A combination of low financing rates, impressive new models with significant value-added technology, and pent up consumer demand all aligned to bring about the best year for vehicle sales in Canadian history,” said David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada.
Not all good news
All that success was tempered slightly by the fact that December's sales of 128,874 new vehicles were down by 1.9% from the same month last year – the first time in 32 months they've decline from the same month the year before.
It was still the second-best December sales tally in history but the seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate (SAAR) – just below 1.8 million according to DAC – was also off. dropping by 300,000 over the past three months to its lowest level since last June.
It may be that buyers just took a breather over the holiday season, but it might also be a signal that the market is beginning to soften. Could the string of consecutive records be broken in 2016?
FCA topped the sales charts
For the first time ever, FCA (formerly Chrysler) was the best-selling automaker in Canada, with 293,061 total sales. Although it was outsold by both Ford and General Motors in some individual months, it held the overall sales lead throughout the year and this time maintained it to the end.
FCA's sales were up just 1.1% on the year and its market share fell by three-tenths of a point, but that was enough to take the top spot away from Ford, whose sales for the year fell 4.6% from 2014. It also gave up 1.1% of market share in dropping to second place.
Although it remained In third place, the biggest gainer among the top three was GM, which improved sales by 5.4% and regained four-tenths of market share, closing the gap on its Detroit competitors. Each of the three claimed sales leadership in individual months during 2015 and they are close enough in sales to promise an exciting race for first place in 2016.
Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Mazda, Volkswagen and Kia filled out the rest of the top ten sales ranking in that order.
Trucks, utilities and luxury vehicles led the way
Trucks (which by definition include CUVs and SUVs) were the driving force behind the new record. Truck sales increased by 8.8% for the year, while those for cars fell 6.3%., Trucks held a 62.3% share of the market for the year but hat share has been growing in recent months, reaching 68.3% in December.
“The significant shift from passenger cars to light duty trucks and crossover vehicles this year has reflected both sustained lower prices for fuel as well as the desire of consumers to maximize the utility from the vehicle they are purchasing,” said Adams.
It was the seventh year in a row that truck sales have hit record levels, according to DesRosiers, largely because of the growing popularity of utility vehicles. SUVs as a whole have been the fastest growing segments in both the mainstream and luxury markets.
The compact sport utility/crossover segment was the largest in the market in 2015, surpassing compact cars for the first time. The compact car segment has been the best-selling segment in Canada since DAC began tracking sales data.
According to DesRosiers, the luxury market also reached a new sales record and a new record market share. While luxury passenger cars saw a net increase over the previous year, luxury SUVs were the driving contributors for growth in 2015.
[NOTE: Data quoted in this report were sourced from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, Global Automakers of Canada and individual automakers.]