To no one’s surprise, Canadian new-vehicle sales ended 2019 down – by 3.6 per cent -- after a lacklustre December.
Automakers sold 1.92 million new vehicles last year with 110,370 of those delivered in the final month of the year. December's sales were down 4.6 per cent, according to the Automotive News Data Center in Detroit.
“We predicted the market to be down three or four per cent and that’s exactly what happened,” said Dennis DesRosiers, head of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants in Toronto.
Sales missed the two-million plateau for the second consecutive year but they remained above 1.9-million units sold for the fourth straight year.
“You can make a lot of money in a 1.9-million market,” DesRosiers said.
“I tell dealers it’s not bad at all. It’s pretty darn good,” said Robert Karwel, senior manager of J.D. Power’s automotive practice in Canada.
Retail sales for the year are down about 3.5 per cent, according to Karwel.
“But let’s not panic,” he said.
DesRosiers echoed Karwel word for word in describing the industry as being in a “flatline situation.”
“There’s no sign the market will be in a free fall going forward, but there’s no sign of an uptick either,” he said.
Data varies slightly by analyst, but car sales are down about 22-24 per cent for the year while the light-truck segment, which comes with much higher profit, climbed about two per cent. Trucks made up 75 per cent of all new-vehicle sales in 2019.
“I would have thought 70 would be about it,” DesRosiers said of the marketshare held by trucks. “But, build it and they will come.”
While J.D. Power is still waiting on some data, Karwel expects the average transaction price in Canada in 2019 to top $36,000.
“People are choosing to spend more,” he said. “Rates are still historically quite low. Customers are still generally spending up.”
Here’s a look at how other automakers fared in December:
FORD STILL REIGNS
Ford Canada finished 2019 as the country’s top-selling automaker overall and had Canada’s top-selling brand and vehicle.
Ford brand sales totalled 279,195 units, down 3.6 per cent over 2018. The F Series pickup — with 145,064 units sold — was the best-selling pickup for the 54th consecutive year and the best-selling vehicle for the tenth straight year.
The Ford Escape, with 39,503 sold, was the automaker’s second best-selling vehicle.
Ford EcoSport sales increased 18 per cent in 2019 to 7,437 units sold.
On the luxury side, Lincoln sales were up six per cent in 2019 to 8,679 vehicles.
From a monthly perspective, Ford’s total sales were down 1.8 per cent in December, during which the company delivered 15,760 vehicles.
TOYOTA'S BANNER YEAR
Toyota Canada managed to put together its best sales year on record despite a December during which sales plunged 16 per cent while Hyundai and Kia both posted sizable annual gains after increased December sales.
Toyota sold 237,091 vehicles in 2019, up 2.4 per cent over last year, establishing a new high-water mark for the company.
The Toyota and Lexus brands each set new sales records with 211,551 and 25,540 vehicles sold, respectively. Toyota brand sales were up 1.9 per cent for the year while Lexus sales climbed 5.9 per cent.
“We were fortunate [last] year. It was all about the product we launched. Our customers have embraced the new product,” Cyril Dimitris, Toyota Canada vice-president of sales and marketing told Automotive News Canada in a phone interview Friday.
Last year marked the launch of the new Toyota RAV4, including a hybrid version, new Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Supra.
Dimitris said most of the automaker’s sales gains came from the Corolla and RAV4, which is made in Ontario. He said he sent a note TO?? Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) President Frank Voss, praising the factory employees for their work.
RAV4 has become the top-selling vehicle outside of the full-size-truck segment, where the Ford F Series reigns as Canada’s best-selling vehicle.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE accounted for 20 per cent of all RAV4 sales last year.
Dimitris said that in some parts of the country, sales were split 50/50 between hybrids and RAV4s powered by internal combustion engines.
“Wait times were quite long [for the hybrid]. We could have sold more if we had them,” Dimitris said.
Toyota Canada recorded its best year for electrified vehicles sales with 34,698 Toyota and Lexus EVs — including hybrids — sold, up 45 per cent from 2018. Electrified vehicle sales represented 14.6 per cent of the automaker’s overall sales in 2019.
Looking at the month of December, Toyota brand sales totalled 11,500, down 19 per cent over the same time a year ago. Sales of Toyota cars were off 23 per cent to 3,744. Camry and Corolla sales were down 41 and 17 per cent, respectively. On the truck side, only the Highlander posted a sales increase, up seven per cent to 924 units.
Sienna minivan sales fell 66 per cent to 580 sold while even the popular RAV4 dropped six per cent to 3,793 but remained the automaker’s top-selling vehicle.
Lexus brand sales were up four per cent to 1,780 units. Lexus got a boost from its truck sales, which were up 14 per cent while car sales plummeted 35 per cent to just 223 units. The Lexus RX led truck sales with 723 units sold, up 22 per cent.
HYUNDAI, KIA CLIMB
Hyundai and Kia capped the year with increased December sales, helping both post sizeable annual gains, too.
Hyundai sold 7,914 vehicles, including its luxury Genesis brand, in December, up 14 per cent over the same period last year.
The Elantra sedan was the automaker’s best-selling vehicle in December at 2,150 sold. The Tucson was Hyundai’s top-selling truck last month at 1,839 sold. The Kona was close behind at 1,773.
The automaker sold 134,732 units in 2019, up four per cent over the previous year.
Meanwhile, Kia’s December sales rose four per cent to 4,491 vehicles sold while its annual figure increased five per cent to 76,630 vehicles.
FCA ENDS ON POSITIVE NOTE
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles saw its fourth-quarter sales climb 14 per cent when compared to the same period last year. None of the Detroit Three reports on a monthly basis so December sales would only be estimates.
On an annual basis, FCA sales dropped one per cent, though the Ram brand managed to post its second-best year on record with 101,971 vehicles sold in 2019. Ram finished the year strong with 22,452 trucks sold in the fourth quarter, a 27-per-cent increase when compared to the same period a year ago.
“The fourth quarter and full-year sales results for 2019 reinforce the particular strengths of our Ram and Jeep brands, ” Reid Bigland, FCA Canada CEO, said in a statement.
For the year, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Wrangler set new annual sales records with 19,459 and 25,659 sold, respectively. Grand Cherokee sales were up 38 per cent last year while Wrangler sales rose four per cent.
It wasn’t all good news at FCA Canada. Chrysler brand sales fell 40 per cent in 2019 to 5,681 units with Pacifica minivan sales off 38 per cent to 3,731 units. Dodge sales were down 15 per cent on the year with only the Durango posting an increase, up 33 per cent to 9,220 units.
GM SALES SLIP
General Motors Canada saw its fourth-quarter and annual sales both sink.
Sales during the final three months of the year fell six per cent to 53,186 while annual sales decreased 11 per cent to 256,795 vehicles.
While GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado sales were both up in fourth quarter — 10 and 11 per cent, respectively — they were both down 3.3 per cent for the year.
Sandor Piszar, vice-president of sales, service and marketing for GM Canada, appeared to be undeterred by the annual numbers and encouraged by fourth-quarter performance.
“We achieved solid year-end results in 2019,” he said in a statement. “Our fourth quarter saw some significant momentum with pickup sales.
“As Canadian consumer preferences shifted significantly toward crossovers, SUVs and pickups in 2019, we remain well positioned for success in 2020 with our full lineup.”
Cadillac had its best quarter in history, up 15 per cent to 3,051 units, led by the XT4 (up 88 per cent) and XT5 (up nine per cent). Cadillac sales were essentially flat for the year, up just 0.2 per cent.
SUBARU SURGES IN DECEMBER
Subaru sales were up 17 per cent to 4,671 units last month.
The Crosstrek was the automaker’s top seller with 1,193 sold. The Impreza was Subaru’s top-selling car in December.
Subaru sold 57,524 vehicles in 2019, down just 0.9 per cent over 2018.