Did the wheels just come off? Maybe not, but after four straight months of robust gains, Canadian light-auto sales fell 1.6 per cent in May in only the second down month since March 2013.
If sales are about to slacken, don’t base that prediction on just the May numbers. This year’s tally for the month – just shy of 195,000 – was based on 24 selling days versus 26 for the same month last year. And it was still 14 per cent higher than the previous-10-year average for May.
Year-to-date sales still stand 5.6 per cent ahead of last year’s record pace.
“With record sales in April, it was anticipated that some sales could have been pulled ahead from this month,” said David Adams, president of Global Automakers of Canada, representing the Canadian interests of 15 global automobile manufacturers.
Citing a positive Consumer Confidence Index reported by the Conference Board of Canada, he said 2016 is still tracking toward a record year.
Most of the losing in May was done by Detroit and more precisely by General Motors of Canada. While FCA and Ford sales edged ahead, GM Canada swooned 16.5 per cent. High-volume models that stumbled in May included Cruze, down 58 per cent; Sierra/Silverado full-size pickups, -19 per cent and the Traverse/Enclave/Acadia SUVs, -46 per cent.
In a prepared statement, GM Canada vice-president of sales, service and marketing, John Roth, said, “In May we continued to focus on our strategy of growing profitable retail share while maintaining disciplined incentive spending and reducing rental deliveries.”
A breakdown provided by GM showed that year-to-date its fleet sales volume declined 1.9 per cent while retail sales rose 2.4 per cent. The fleet share of total GM sales was 28.7 per cent, down from 29.6 per cent a year earlier.
GM’s drag left total Detroit sales 4.6 per cent in arrears in May while the offshore-based brands inched ahead 0.9 per cent. GM’s back-slide also wiped out most of the market-share gains that Detroit had achieved over the first four months.
On the import side, most automakers moved ahead in May, with the exceptions of Toyota Canada Inc. (down 0.7 percent), VW-Audi (-3.4 percent) and Subaru (-7.9 percent).
Among the top-selling nameplates, the Ford F-Series is leaving everything in its dust with 58,964 sales YTD, an increase of 25.8 per cent and almost 20,000 units ahead of FCA’s Ram pickups in second place. The Honda Civic, up 14.4 per cent, comfortably heads passenger-car sales; Hyundai Elantra, Civic’s closest challenger, is up 8.8 per cent.
RAV4 edges Corolla
In a striking sign of the times, the Toyota RAV4 now narrowly leads the Toyota Corolla in overall sales; moreover, the RAV4 has also ended the Ford Escape’s long-time reign as the country’s top-selling SUV, while the Honda CR-V is poised to pass the Escape too.
Also worth noting is the 25-per cent jump in YTD Dodge Grand Caravan sales, with 6,169 of them sold in May alone; meanwhile, the Chrysler Pacifica achieved 112 sales in its second month on the market.