TORONTO — New-vehicle sales dropped into "uncharted territory" in April with a 74.6-per-cent plunge from a year earlier, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.
Last month’s sales totalled an estimated 45,833 units compared with 180,616 last year as restrictions and economic uncertainty related to the COVID-19 outbreak affected the full month of sales.
Few automakers report sales on a monthly basis. Nissan Canada on Tuesday became the latest automaker to move to quarterly reporting. It did so “to align with Nissan USA.” The first quarterly sales report will be issued in early July.
DesRosiers says that while its records aren't complete, it believes the number of new vehicles sold in April is the month’s lowest sales total since 1951.
The April fall in sales came after a 48.3 per cent sales drop in March, when widespread restrictions first went into place. Both periods easily eclipsed the previous record for a monthly drop of 27.7 per cent, set in February 2009 amid the worst of the Great Recession.
Year-to-date, the market is now trending down 36.7 per cent from 2019 levels.
Analysts had warned April sales would fall 80 per cent due to the deadly COVID-19 and the lockdowns, quarantines and stay-at-home orders it forced governments across the country to implement.
Showrooms remain closed in Quebec and Ontario, where even test drives are banned. The two provinces account for about 80 per cent of the country’s new-vehicle market.
Scotiabank Economics and TD Economics both predicted total new-vehicle sales would be down 80 per cent in April. And while TD expects some demand to come back in the latter half of May, “it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see a complete return to normal activity [plus any lost purchases] in just one month,” the bank said in a report on April 22.
“Sentiment has been damaged and it will likely take at least several months before we see a return to a ‘normal’ level of sales,” the report said.
DesRosiers notes that April could be the low point in sales as provinces talk of starting to reopen the economy in the weeks ahead. The Ontario government, for example, announced Friday that auto dealerships could start to reopen on an appointment-only basis starting Monday.
HOW SOME AUTOMAKERS FARED
Toyota Canada Inc., one of the few automakers still reporting monthly sales, said they plunged 73 per cent in April as the novel coronavirus continued to wreak havoc on the industry.
Toyota sold 6,308 new vehicles, including the Lexus brand, last month, down from 23,234 a year ago. Toyota brand car sales plummeted 84 per cent while truck sales were off 72 per cent. The RAV4 remained Toyota’s top seller last month at 1,432, down 77 per cent from the same month a year ago. On the luxury side, total Lexus sales fell 78 per cent to 587 vehicles.
Hyundai sales were down 76 per cent in April. The automaker sold 3,128 new vehicles. Sales of its luxury Genesis brand, which are done mostly online, fell 73 per cent to just 41. Kia sales were down 77 per cent to 1,698. And Subaru sales fell 75 per cent to 1,290.
The Canadian Press and Greg Layson of Automotive News Canada contributed to this report.