Despite dip, August sales second-best ever

Trucks continue to dominate market as car sales languish

The prospect of another record year for auto sales in Canada looks a little less of a slam dunk after sales dipped 2.0 per cent in August; this, following a 2.6 per cent downturn in July.

For a second month, FCA was a drag on the market’s overall numbers, as the Windsor-based company reported a 20 per cent swoon using its revised sales calculating methodology. Together with an 8.5 percent decline by GM, that outweighed Ford’s 9.0 per cent gain, and combined sales for the Detroit Three sagged 6.4 per cent.

Offshore-based brands together grew their sales 1.6 per cent.

Still, the month’s total of 172,000 was still the second-best August in history. Year-to-date, sales stand 3.7 per cent ahead of last year’s record pace.

Almost two out of every three vehicles sold in July were light trucks; year-to-date, the light-truck share stands at 65 per cent, compared with 61 per cent over the same period last year.

F-Series juggernaut

The Ford F-Series remains the 800-lb. gorilla in the category, growing its sales 26 per cent in August to score its best sales month ever, and pushing its year-to-date total above 100,000 units, with four months still to go. That’s 34,000 more sales than the combined sales of GM’s Chevrolet and GMC full-size pickups.

On the minivan side, sales of Chrysler’s Pacifica are growing slowly (401 in August), but still below the pace of its Town & Country predecessor (1,748). Meanwhile, however, sales of the Dodge Grand Caravan are up 20 per cent year-to-date and the Dodge Durango spiked 73 per cent. Yet sales of FCA’s only other three-row vehicle, the Journey, have sagged 33 per cent.

The Jeep Cherokee was a rare outlier in the other big light-truck growth category, compact CUVs. While the Jeep’s sales dropped 24 per cent, other big players like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue all advanced, most of them quite substantially.

Luxury sales grow

Aside from domestic vs. import brands, and trucks vs. cars, another divide that was hard to miss in August was luxury vs. mainstream. Every European and Japanese luxury nameplate grew its sales in August, as did Lincoln and Buick (GM also reported higher sales of Cadillac SUVs, though weak passenger-car sales pulled down the brand’s total).

Apart from GM and FCA, the big decliners in August were Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Volkswagen.

Jaguar led the gainers, up 222 per cent thanks to the launch of two new nameplates (XE sedan and F-Pace SUV) while notable gains were also reported for Subaru (35 per cent) and smart (327 per cent).

Avid numbers junkies should note that FCA’s revision of its sales claims going back five years may result in some minor inconsistencies with previously reported figures, though not to an extent that will materially alter trends or rankings reported here. Another minor source of skew: Maserati started reporting its Canadian sales midway through 2016, but has not supplied either its year-ago numbers or its sales for the earlier part of this year.

You can reach Jeremy Sinek at jeremy.sinek@sympatico.ca

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