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Sales trends

The top 10 car trends: what the numbers tell us Add to ...

No. 1: Ford is leading a rally in sales of really small cars – shocking.

Despite persistently high fuel prices, compact car sales have been flat (up just 0.9 per cent), but subcompacts have taken off – up 5.6 per cent. Ford’s Fiesta subcompact has had a “rocket-like” sales performance since being launched midway through last year. Meanwhile, sales of “established players” such as the Toyota Yaris (down 61.4 per cent) and Honda Fit (down 45.9 per cent) have tanked.

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Trend No. 2: Japanese dominance in compact cars is no longer a given.

Compacts such as the Mazda3 (down 30.1 per cent), Toyota Matrix (down 32.1 per cent) and Honda Civic (down 2.0 per cent) have been taking it on the chin this year. Some Japanese manufacturers have been struggling with supply issues since the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan and that partially explains the sad story here.

Also at play is a simple truth: when it comes to new products, in many instances the competition has caught up or even passed the leading Japanese auto makers. Fresh new models from Volkswagen (Golf and Jetta), Hyundai (Elantra), Ford (Fiesta and Focus) and General Motors (Chevrolet Cruze) are the equal or better than the established Japanese players.

“The question of whether or not Japanese manufacturers will recover the C-size (compact segment) dominance held for much of the 1990s and 2000s will loom large in 2012,” notes analyst Dennis DesRosiers.

In other words, it’s game on in compact cars and consumers stand to benefit.

Trend No. 3: Mid-size cars remain on the decline.

Sales through June here were down 5.6 per cent, notes DesRosiers. Again, though, it’s the Japanese who are hurting most: Honda Accord down 39.5 per cent and Toyota Camry down 38.8 per cent. New competition from the likes of Hyundai with the Sonata and Ford with its facelifted Fusion are giving fits to long-standing monster performers from Japan.

Trend No. 4: Small luxury packages – Not!

Sales of small luxury passenger cars declined 6.2 per cent through June, says DesRosiers. Too many vehicles in this segment lack the necessary mixture of “style, novelty, performance and efficiency,” notes DesRosiers, though the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz B-Class stand out as two exceptions.

Trend No. 5: Big luxury vehicles are hot, though not entirely.

High luxury sales, says DesRosiers, were up 7.2 per cent, led by vehicles such as the new BMW 5-Series (up 60.7 per cent). The lesson here, as always, is that the newest models sell the best.

Trend No. 6: Canadians are in love with trucks.

Light-truck sales jumped 6.0 per cent during the first half of 2011, notes DesRosiers, led by intermediate SUVs which were up 21.3 per cent year to date. Big winners included the Toyota Highlander (up 33 per cent) and Dodge Journey (up 52.7 per cent).

Trend No. 7: Minivans are not dead in Canada.

Led by new models from Honda (Odyssey), Toyota (Sienna) and Nissan (Quest), minivan sales have rallied this year. Chrysler remains the segment leader, but even a facelift to the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country could not halt erosion to the new Japanese vans.

Trend No. 8: The luxury action is in compact SUVs.

Sales were up an impressive 18.4 per cent here, “dominated,” notes DesRosiers, “by new or recently refreshed products from European manufacturers.”

Mercedes still dominates, DesRosiers adds, but sales were down 12.4 per cent from 2010. “Audi and BMW (up by 58.8 per cent and 36.7 per cent respectively) take second and third positions” while Japanese entries from Acura and Infiniti suffered losses.

Trend No. 9: Compact SUVs still on the rise.

For the record, non-luxury compact SUV sales jumped 8.0 per cent for the half-year, with notable gains by GM, Ford and Chrysler. On the other hand, perennial best-sellers such as the Honda CR-V (down 8.2 per cent) and Toyota RAV4 (down 5.1 per cent) struggled.

Trend No. 10: Big pickups are in, but not so much for small ones – as well as certain SUVs.

Three of the four best-selling light trucks were pickups – Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra and Dodge Ram. The best-selling vehicle in Canada, period, is the F-Series and will remain so for 2011.

Meanwhile, says DesRosiers, “down were sales of luxury intermediate SUVs. While they remain the segment leaders by a considerable margin, Acura and Lexus both posted double-digit volume losses for the first half of 2011,” adding, “the overriding story here is a mass exodus from intermediate to compact luxury SUVs.”

Do the six-month trends of 2011 foretell major shifts in the tastes of Canadian buyers? Are we seeing a “new normal” or a six-month blip?

Stay tuned.

THE BEST-SELLING MODELS

Top 10 cars and light trucks in Canada (by sales, January-June 2011)

Passenger cars

2011

2010

% gain/loss

Honda Civic

26,371

26,905

-2.0

Hyundai Elantra

24,283

17,422

39.4

Toyota Corolla

19,853

20,720

-9.0

Chevrolet Cruze

18,769

-

NA

Mazda3

18,446

26,383

-30.1

Volkswagen Jetta

14,068

5,466

157.4

Ford Focus

12,659

11,360

11.4

Hyundai Accent

11,304

14,020

-19.4

Ford Fusion

10,153

11,109

-8.6

Hyundai Sonata

9,269

7,228

28.2

Light trucks

2011

2010

% gain/loss

Ford F-Series

46,807

46,610

0.4

Dodge Caravan

29,986

28,529

5.1

Dodge Ram

29,747

25,310

17.5

Ford Escape

23,183

22,078

5.0

GMC Sierra

22,225

22,510

-1.2

Chevrolet Silverado

19,233

20,146

-4.5

Dodge Journey

16,069

10,524

52.7

Hyundai Santa Fe

12,883

13,416

-4.0

Honda CR-V

12,426

13,542

-8.2

Chevrolet Equinox

12,175

9,297

31.0

Source: DesRosiers Automotive Consultants

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