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Canadian auto sales set a torrid pace

Import brand resurgence and heavy discounting drive 2012 sales increase

Published: August 8, 2012, 2:00 AM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 4:05 PM

2012 Toyota Camry SE

Through the first seven months of 2012, new-vehicle sales in Canada are running at a near-record level – helped in part by strong discounting and heavy rebates.

It remains a buyer's market.

July marked the sixth month out of the seven with sales above 2011 levels – they were up by 4.7% from the same month last year. And for the whole 2012 period, year-to-date, they're 6.7% ahead of last year's numbers.

More importantly, perhaps, 2012's 1,013,094 sales, through July, are 5.9% above their five-year norm.

The SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) for July was about 1.68 million (per DesRosiers Automotive Consultants). It has surpassed 1.6 million every month in 2012 and is averaging just over 1.68 million.

If that momentum continues, 2012 will be the best year for sales in at least the past five years and it could be the second best sales year ever, behind 2002's record of 1.72 million.

Imports drive sales advance

Import brands continued to drive the overall sales increase with collective sales up by 9.1% for the month – almost twice the overall rate of gain – compared to a 0.4% advance for the Detroit Three.

Toyota ( 31.0%) and Honda ( 25.5%) led that charge, in terms of overall numbers. Both have regained their form after suffering severe supply constraints as a result of the Japanese disaster of March 2011.

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Toyota's new-for-2012 Camry has been selling in huge numbers and Honda's Civic continues to be Canada's best-selling car, as it has been for the past 14 years.

Both Japanese brands are still slightly short of their year-to-date sales averages for the past five years, however (Honda -3.1%; Toyota -2.4%).

Other big gainers in July included Smart ( 73.2%), Land Rover ( 49.5%), MINI ( 33.9%), Porsche ( 26.5%), Subaru ( 23.3%) and Kia ( 20.4%).

The only import brands with lower sales than in 2011were Jaguar (-22.5%), Nissan (-33.3%) and Volvo (-37.2%).

Much of the import brands' gains came from their truck models, sales of which were up 15.6% versus 5.5% for passenger cars.

Year-to-date, the imports claim 54.6 % of the market to the domestics' 45.4% – a 2.7% gain for imports from this time last year.

Detroit Three losing ground

Sales of Detroit Three products were up just 0.4% from July 2011 and sales of all three lagged behind the overall market improvement (Chrysler 3.4%; Ford 2.2%; General Motors -5.6%).

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Ford still outsold all other automakers for July, however, and remains solidly in first place year-to-date – thanks in large part to its best-selling F-Series pickups, sales of which were up 12.2% through the first half.

Collectively, the D3 have lost 2.7 % of market share year-to-date, compared to this time in 2011 – with GM (-1.8%) the biggest loser.

Both Chrysler's and Ford's year-to-date sales remained ahead of their five-year averages (by 17.6% and 16.1% respectively), but GM's sales (-25.2%) fell well short of that norm.

Kia coming on strong

Overall sales rankings continue their usual pattern with Ford followed by Chrysler and GM. Toyota is third, followed by Hyundai, Honda and Nissan.

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But Kia is closing in on Nissan for seventh place (just 754 units behind), now well ahead of Mazda.

Among premium brands, Mercedes-Benz has established a clear lead on BMW, both of which are well ahead of Audi, followed by Acura, Lexus and Infiniti in that order.

After several months of passenger cars posting greater rates of sales increase than trucks, that situation turned around in June and July followed suit. Truck sales were up by 8.6 % while those for passenger cars fell 0.1%.

Year-to date, however, car sales are up by 8.8 % from 2011, compared to 5.5% for trucks.

But trucks still account for 54.2% of the market while cars claim 45.8 %. That's a 0.9-% swing in favour of cars from a year ago.