Massive restructurings at both General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC appear to be paying off as the two auto makers depended less on fleets and more on consumers to buy their vehicles.
Chrysler Canada Inc. said Wednesday that it sold 22,319 vehicles last month, up 40 per cent from a year ago when most of the big manufacturers were still struggling with dramatic sales declines on the heels of the global recession.
Perhaps most significantly, Chrysler's retail sales were up 50 per cent year over year. The North American auto makers have been criticized in the past for relying too heavily on fleets, like car rental agencies and taxi services, to bolster their sales numbers.
"While fleet sales continue to be solid, our real strength has been in incredibly robust retail sales at our dealerships," stated Dave Buckingham, vice-president of sales at Chrysler Canada.
Chrysler said this marks its best sales results for the month of July since 1997.
"I don't think there is any doubt that our restructuring efforts last year and [our]alliance with Fiat are paying early dividends," stated Reid Bigland, president and chief executive officer of Chrysler Canada.
The story was a similar one at General Motors of Canada Ltd., which said retail sales of the brands it didn't eliminate during its restructuring - GMC, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Buick - jumped 69 per cent from July, 2009.
Overall, GM sold 23,917 vehicles in July, up 21 per cent from a year ago.
Both auto makers said their monthly sales were boosted by consumer incentives, including employee pricing at GM.
Both GM and Chrysler were forced to file for U.S. bankruptcy protection last year and have dramatically restructured their operations with the help of billions of dollars in government aid from the U.S., Canada and Ontario.
While Chrysler partnered with Italian auto maker Fiat SpA to give it access to the small-vehicle technology it lacked, GM has been going it alone with a renewed focus on the consumer and new vehicles, including the battery-powered Chevrolet Volt that will be launched later this year.
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. sales edged higher in July, as strong car sales were hurt by a decline in the number of trucks purchased compared to the same month last year.
Ford said Wednesday its overall sales inched up by 2 per cent to 27,203 last month, bumping the auto maker to its best July since 1979. Overall sales were boosted by a 46 per cent increase in the number of cars sold, but this was offset by a nine per cent decline in truck sales.
"Last year, Ford sales were up 47 per cent in July versus an industry decline of seven per cent. Posting a gain after last year's increase is good, but given the comparisons, a 31-year July sales record is impressive," said David Mondragon, president and CEO of Ford Canada.
Ford's Canadian sales weathered the downturn much better than Chrysler and GM, as Ford was the only one of the Detroit Three to avoid filing for bankruptcy protection in the U.S.
Honda Canada Inc. said its sales fell 11 per cent in July compared to the same month last year.
The Japan-based auto maker said it sold 11,615 units from its Honda and Acura divisions combined during the month.
Sales of Honda-branded vehicles were down 10 per cent at 10,184, while sales of the luxury Acura brand fell 13 per cent to 1,431 units.
Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. reported late Tuesday that its sales rose 9.7 per cent to 11,503 units.
And Subaru Canada Inc. said it sold 2,336 vehicles last month, up 28.1 per cent from last year to its best July ever.
In the United States, every major auto maker except for Ford Motor Co. and Daimler AG said their July sales topped those in June. The biggest monthly sales gains were posted by Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG, Subaru and Kia.
U.S. sales were 5.1 per cent higher than in July of 2009, a year where sales fell to a 30-year low.