Canadian new-vehicle sales in April edged closer to pre-pandemic levels, but couldn’t quite shake off the effects of ongoing rolling lockdowns, showroom capacity limits and other COVID-19 restrictions across the country.
DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC) and the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC) both say estimated April sales were off about 10 to 11 per cent last month compared to April 2019.
DAC estimates automakers sold 162,455 new vehicles last month, up 254 per cent over the same month last year but still down 10 per cent from the estimated 180,616 they sold in April 2019.
“There was really nowhere to go but up. April last year marked the nadir of the market decline of 2020 with sales falling to only 45,833 units, the lowest April sales total since 1951,” DAC said in a statement. “From that market abyss it was no surprise that sales climbed strongly in April 2021.”
David Adams, head of the GAC, which represents the interests of overseas automakers in Canada, said “even with that ramp up, sales were still down about 11 per cent from April 2019.”
Monthly sales are estimates now that a vast majority of automakers report only quarterly results.
DAC said automakers and their dealers are still grappling with ongoing pandemic restrictions and microchip-driven shortages of select vehicles.
“Perhaps more important than the top line percentage change however, was the fact that the SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate) for the month slipped to 1.66 million,” DAC Managing Partner Andrew King said in a statement. “Given that the SAAR was running at around 1.8 to 1.9 million in the past few months this is a definite — but not unexpected — step back.”
But even with a vaccination rollout that’s gaining steam, the spring selling season isn’t guaranteed to be a robust one.
“With Canada’s vaccination drive finally ramping up, but with microchip shortages persisting, the outlook for May, traditionally the largest sales month of the year, will warrant close attention,” King said.
Automakers still reporting Canadian sales on a monthly basis neared or exceeded pre-pandemic figures in April 2021.
Five of nine brands that posted their totals Monday showed improvement over both April 2020 — the first full month affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — and April 2019.
Toyota, Lexus, Mazda, Kia and Genesis all managed gains over April 2019, while Subaru sales were essentially flat, down just 0.4 per cent.
Sales increases happened despite the ongoing pandemic and the varying degrees of lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and other restrictions in place across the country.
Ontario, for example, underwent a stay-at-home order on April 8 and it's not set to expire until end of day May 20. Meanwhile, Alberta, where cases continue to rise, has strict capacity limits in place at showrooms.
Here’s a look at how some of the automakers fared last month:
TOYOTA EDGES UPWARD
Total Toyota Canada sales, including the luxury Lexus line, were 23,481 last month, up 272.2 per cent over April 2020 and up 1.1 per cent over 2019.
SUBARU FLAT VS. 2019
Subaru sales totalled 5,199 units last month, up 303 per cent when compared with April 2020 and down just 0.4 per cent over the same month in 2019.
GENESIS CAN’T LIFT HYUNDAI
Hyundai sales were off 10.6 per cent compared with April 2019. The automaker sold 11,766 last month, up 276.2 per cent from a year ago.
The automaker’s luxury Genesis brand saw sales surge to 275 units, up 82 per cent compared with the same month two years ago. Sales were up 570.7 per cent compared with April 2020.
Kia sold 8,040 new vehicles last month, up 8.1 per cent compared with April 2019 and up 373.5 per cent over last April.
MAZDA’S BIG GAINS
Mazda saw its April 2021 sales rise 9.5 per cent over April 2019. The automaker sold 6,912 new vehicles last month, up 480.4 per over last April, which was marred by the onset of the pandemic.