With sales of 160,274 new vehicles, March was the third consecutive record-setting month for auto sales in Canada, continuing the trend established in 2014, which was the best sales year ever.
It was also the 12th consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases, although with sales up just 1.9% from the same month last year, the pace of the March advance was not as brisk as for the first two months of the year. The overall gain for the first quarter was 2.7%.
FCA Canada on top
For the third consecutive month, FCA Canada (formerly Chrysler Canada) claimed the top spot on the sales charts with a 1.7% improvement over March 2014.
Ford (-4.6%) maintained second place ahead of General Motors (-3.5%), but slipped further behind FCA in the year-to-date count, now lagging by more than 7,500 units.
Toyota remained firmly ensconced in fourth place although its March sales were down 5.1% from last year and Hyundai ( 0.2%) held on to fifth position ahead of Honda (-2.6%), which regained sixth place ffrom Nissan ( 8.0%).
Volkswagen was the star marque for the month with sales up by 72.6%, keeping it ahead of a resurgent Kia ( 13.2%).
Other solid gainers for the month included Porsche ( 45.6%), Mini ( 26.4%), Subaru ( 16.1%), Lexus ( 13.0%) and Mercedes-Benz ( 10.1%).
The biggest losers for the month were Smart (-83.8%), Volvo (-21.7%) and Acura (-10.6%).
Light truck sales, which include utility vehicles, continued strong with a 5.4% advance, compared to a 2.9% decline for passenger cars. Trucks accounted for 61.8% of all new-vehicle sales in Canada through the first quarter.
The Ford F-series continued to be the best- selling vehicle overall, while the Honda Civic was once again the best-selling passenger car. The F-Series was followed by the Ram and GM Sierra pickups on the truck side; the Civic by the Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Corolla among cars.
“Canadians seem undaunted by some of the economic head winds, with the Conference Board of Canada indicating that consumer confidence has increased almost 13 points,” said David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC). “These trends suggest continued vehicle sales growth,” he added.
All not smooth sailing
Still, all may not be smooth sailing toward another record year. March was the fifth consecutive month of decline in the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR). At about 1.73-million it's still solid – and well ahead of where it was at this time last year – but it's far short of the pace needed to make 2015 the third best-selling year in a row.
Industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers noted that, while the market is off to a positive start, January through March are three of the slowest months of the year for sales and because volumes are so low specific sales tactics by individual brands can have a significant impact on the market.
He cautioned that we should wait to see how the market develops in the key Spring selling season to better understand where it is heading.