CORRECTION: A previous version of the sales chart included in this story overstated the number of vehicles sold in December 2021.
TORONTO — New-vehicle sales in Canada increased slightly in 2021 when compared with the year before, but they finished well below figures from 2019, the last full year before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Automakers sold 1.66 million new vehicles last year, up 6.9 per cent over 2020, according to the Automotive News Research and Data Center in Detroit. But sales were about 300,000 units — or 15.5 per cent — shy of the 1.94 million sold in 2019.
Last year was the 11th best on record but was down 19.6 per cent from the market high of just over two million units in 2017, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.
Opposite ends of the buying process hindered sales the last two years. Canadians couldn’t leave their homes much in 2020 as provincial and territorial governments enacted strict public health measures in an effort to flatten the COVID-19 curve early. And in 2021, while people returned to work — and shopping — new vehicles were few and far between because of bottlenecks in the supply chain and the ongoing shortages of semiconductors and inventory.
“While 2020 was a year beset by demand problems, 2021 was hit by problems on the supply side of the equation,” said Andrew King, DesRosiers managing partner.
DesRosiers estimates that December sales fell 4.5 per cent to 102,919 units from a year earlier as semiconductor supply issues continued to affect the industry. Monthly sales figures are estimates because so many automakers have turned to quarterly reporting only.
Ford was the top-selling automaker of 2021 with 243,447 units sold, topping Toyota’s 225,215, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center in Detroit. Ford had to rally from behind to pass the Japanese automaker, which was the No. 1 seller in the United States in 2021, after it ended General Motors’ 90-year run as king south of the border. Ford trailed Toyota by 1,228 units in Canada through the first three quarters but has now been the top-selling automaker for 13 consecutive years in Canada.
Toyota Canada declined to comment about the year, telling Automotive News Canada it doesn’t typically discuss sales figures.
General Motors placed third on the sales podium at 217,475 sold in 2021.
Success stories were hidden among the crises that battered the industry for year.
Kia Canada posted a record-shattering 2021 with 79,198 units sold, making last year the best on record for the brand. Kia, and its Korean cousin Hyundai, both weathered the microchip shortage early on in 2021.
Kia Canada COO Elias El-Achhab feels good about the year ahead.
“As we look forward to 2022, consumer demand remains exceptionally high, leaving us optimistic for the year ahead with new and exciting models like the highly anticipated Kia EV6, set to arrive in dealerships early next year,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Subaru Canada posted a nine-per-cent sales gain over 2020 with 56,870 units sold in what the brand called a “tumultuous year.”
General Motors Canada said its luxury Cadillac line had a record year. Sales were up seven per cent to 13,274 last year.
“Despite continued inventory constraints the industry faced in 2021, GM delivered strong year-end sales results thanks to high customer demand across our portfolio,” said Sandor Piszar, vice- president, sales, service and marketing, GM Canada.
Looking at segments, light truck sales accounted for more than 80 per cent of total sales for the first time, rising to 81.2 per cent in 2021, up from 79.9 per cent in 2020, according to DesRosiers.
The top-selling light truck for the year was the Ford F-series with 116,401 units sold.
The Honda Civic was the top-selling passenger car at 43,556 units.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.