New-vehicle sales came roaring back during the first quarter of 2021, a little more than a year after COVID-19 arrived in Canada.
Sales were up 15.6 per cent over the same quarter a year ago, according to the Automotive News Research and Data Center in Detroit. Automakers sold 384,335 new vehicles during the first three months of 2021.
The jump illustrates just how devastating the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were in March of 2020, when provinces scrambled to curb the deadly virus starting in the middle of the month.
“In March 2020, we were entering an unprecedented lockdown due to COVID-19 which greatly affected sales for all manufacturers. So, although we’re happy to see this rebound and positive results in March 2021, it’s difficult to draw a real comparison to a situation we’ve never encountered before and remains ongoing,” Honda Canada spokesman John Bordignon said after the company posted a 76-per cent sales gain last month alone.
Honda is one of the few automakers which still report monthly sales. Its sales for the quarter finished up 4.3 per cent.
While inventory remains tight, Wyant Group Chief Operating Officer Michael Wyant said margins are up at the auto group, which owns about 30 stores in three Western provinces.
“The first three months of the year, the business is actually pretty healthy,” he said. “March, year over year comparatively, is probably going to be the biggest swing we’ve ever seen profitability-wise, just because everyone fell off a cliff mid-March last year.”
Of the 40 brands tracked by the Automotive News Research and Data Centre, only three — Jaguar, Dodge and Fiat — posted sales decreases by percentage during the first quarter.
BMW was one of 13 automakers to post double-digit sales increases by percentage, selling 6,911 vehicles in the quarter.
“Even with the continued volatility and varying regional restrictions in which our retailers and consumers were operating, the first quarter of 2021 was a positive one,” BMW Group Canada CEO Reiner Braun said in a statement. “Innovative, digital programs such as remote deliveries, contactless service, virtual auto shows and product walk-arounds – programs that focus on serving our customers how and when they want – are translating into strong sales performance.”
But the robust numbers began trickling in just as Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced another provincewide lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country’s biggest retail market. The new restrictions include capacity limits at retail stores. The government is also asking Ontarians to limit trips outside the home to necessities such as food, medication and other essential services, but stopped short of imposing a stay-at-home order like it did in January.
Here’s a look at how some automakers fared during the first quarter:
JEEP DRIVES FCA CANADA
FCA Canada reported first-quarter sales of 46.211 vehicles, an increase of 4.6 per cent per cent from 44,200 sold in the first quarter of 2020.
FCA Canada, a division of Stellantis, doesn’t report monthly sales figures.
Jeep brand drove sales for the most part. Jeep brand sales of 14,955 represented a 33-per cent increase compared with the prior year. Jeep Cherokee, Gladiator and Wrangler saw sales increases of 80, 64 and 23 per cent, respectively.
“Jeep will continue to be a driving force throughout the year, with the arrival of several new models, including the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, Wrangler 4xe,” FCA CEO Canada David Buckingham said in a statement.
TOYOTA MARCH SALES MORE THAN DOUBLE
Toyota Canada sold 21,121 new vehicles in March, up 102.2 per cent over the same month a year ago. That surge pushed quarterly sales up 18.3 per cent, to 46,648 units.
HYUNDAI-KIA NEARLY DOUBLE
Hyundai-Kia Automotive posted similar gains, up 95.5 per cent to 19,667 in March and up 23.2 per cent to 41,214 vehicles in the quarter.
At the brand level in March, Hyundai sales rose 95.7 per cent to 11,654. Kia sales were up 91.6 per to 7,750. And luxury Genesis sales spiked 331.1 per cent to 263 vehicles. All three brands posted gains of more than 20 per cent for the quarter.
CRV CARRIES HONDA
Honda Canada sales surged a whopping 76 per cent in March, putting the automaker well ahead of last year’s first-quarter pace.
Honda sold 14,436 vehicles last month, and sales were up 4.3 per cent in the first quarter.
CRV sales are driving the rebound, up 77.6 per cent in March and up 25.6 per cent in the quarter.
The Honda Pilot is also pacing ahead of last year’s totals, up 181.8 per cent in March to 1,251 units, and up 26.7 per cent in the quarter.
Civic and HR-V sales also surged in March, up 31.6 and 87 per cent, respectively.
Overall, Honda brand sales were up 68.2 per cent to 12,567 in March and up 0.4 per cent to 26,653 in the quarter.
The automaker’s luxury Acura division saw its sales soar 157.8 per cent in March and 45.7 per cent in the quarter.
The Acura RDX was the top-selling vehicle for the brand with sales of 650 in March — up 84.1 per cent. Sales of the RDX were up 12.7 per cent to 1,559 in the first three months.
Honda Canada wasn’t immediately available for comment.