The numbers are in and they say that Canada’s new vehicle market is alive, but not overly healthy with sales for the first half of 2011 up a paltry 2.7 per cent. At least June was a decent month: sales up 6.6 per cent overall.
The overall numbers don’t tell even a fraction of the story. Here are 10 things I learned by digging into the monthly sales results:
1. Employee Pricing works. After a brutal May, Nissan Canada launched an Employee Pricing program and was rewarded with a monthly gain of 47.4 per cent. Ford of Canada’s sales were also driven by Employee Pricing deals. Sales were up 5.5 per cent, but this was Ford Canada’s best June since 1989. Yes, Ford has Employee Pricing, too.
2. The three big German premium brands are all having banner years. Mercedes-Benz Canada had record-breaking sales of 3,286 in June. Year-to-date: 16,760 retailed in the first half of 2011. BMW Canada’s sales hit records and monthly records: 4,164 sold in June (up 18.9 per cent) and year-to-date the total hit 16,884 units sold. Audi sales are up 18.8 per cent this year and jumped 16.8 per cent in June. Oh, and Porsche sales are up 43.6 per cent this year.
3. Diesel SUVs sell. Three-quarters of the light trucks sold by Mercedes-Benz Canada were diesels.
4. Buying almost-new is an option. Sales of pre-owned vehicles at Mercedes hit 1,340 in June, the best month ever for this car company. Over the past six months, Mercedes has sold 6,124 pre-owned units, for an increase of 19.8 per cent compared to this point last year. It is a similar story at other auto makers, including rival BMW Canada.
5. The Korean auto makers have become a major force. With every sales release, Hyundai Canada announces that it is “Canada’s best-selling passenger car brand.” For the first six months of 2011, Hyundai sales were up 10.5 per cent to 68,721. Hyundai argues that sales are being driven by fuel efficiency, with “no less than 33.2 per cent of Hyundai vehicles sold coming with fuel economy rated at less than 5.0 litres/100 km. Kia Canada had its best month ever, with 7,077 total sales in June for a 20.7 per cent increase over June 2010.
6. The race for No. 2 is a real race. Ford Canada sold 140,311 vehicles for the first half of the year, for an increase of 5.7 per cent. Ford is lagging the overall market, but will win the sales crown in 2011 barring some unforeseen disaster. Chrysler Canada, on the other hand, could become No. 2. With 120,903 sold through the end of June, Chrysler Canada’s sales were up 15.0 per cent year-over-year. Chrysler is chasing down General Motors of Canada, whose sales are up 1.4 per cent on the year – to 124,851. Chrysler might yet catch GM Canada; 4,000 units is not much to make up. Remember, Chrysler Canada’s sales were up 27 per cent in June.
7. The Jetta is a smash hit - and that’s why Volkswagen Canada’s year-to-date sales of 26,942 were up 18 per cent. Through June, VW Canada had sold 14,041 Jettas. Every other car VW Canada sells is a Jetta.
8. The Big Two Japanese auto makers remain in a funk. Honda brand sales were down 19.1 per cent in June and are down 10.2 per cent on the year. Toyota brand sales were off 27.7 per cent in June and have slumped 15.6 per cent on the year. Both are struggling with supply problems in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Automotive News reports that Honda may re-launch the 2012 Civic once supplies are closer to normal. Toyota has a raft of new models coming, including a new Camry this fall. The weak sales of both must be a worry for not just these two car companies, but for Japan Inc. in general.
9. How much longer can Suzuki last in Canada? Sales after six months were down to 2,847, for a year-on-year drop of 34.4 per cent. What a mess.
10. The big Japanese luxury brands are struggling. Lexus brand sales are down 12.0 per cent through June, Infiniti is down 17.3 per cent and Acura is off a whopping 19.8 per cent.