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Elantra poised to snatch best-seller crown away from Honda Civic Add to ...

The Hyundai Elantra appears poised to end the Honda Civic’s 13-year run as Canada’s best-selling car.

With sales of the Elantra up 40.7 per cent on the year and sales of the Civic off 5.2 per cent through the end of July, Hyundai’s compact is less than 1,000 units behind the Civic for new car sales leadership in Canada.

Through the end of July, Honda Canada had sold 29,974 Civics, while the Elantra is just 923 units behind at 29,051.

“The perennial winner for the last decade has been Civic, but it is in trouble this year with supply problems and the usual issues with an all-new generation of product being introduced (for the 2012 model year). Some bad reviews (of the Civic) haven’t helped either,” says Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants in a note to clients.

Among those bad reviews was a critique from Consumer Reports which ranked the all-new, ninth-generation Civic 11th out of 12 compact cars rated. This Civic is not among CR’s recommended models.

If the Elantra manages to overtake the Civic this year it will be notable in the extreme. The Civic is among Honda’s most popular and globally recognized products. It has not only been Canada’s best-selling car for the past 13 consecutive years, it has reached more than 1.6 million customers since being launched as a 1973 model. Honda says that after 38 years, more than 930,000 Civics remain on the road in Canada.

Sure, Honda’s launch of the new Civic has been hurt by supply and production problems in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan. That said, the Civic, like the Elantra, is built in North America, not Japan. In fairness, Honda has been buffeted by the lack of a steady and consistent supply of parts out of Japan – as have other Japanese car companies.

But it is not reasonable for Honda Canada to blame all its Civic woes on a terrible natural disaster in Japan. Civic sales have been trending steadily downward since 2008, according to DesRosiers Automotive. In July of this year, Just as Honda in North America had begun to say production issues were well under control, Civic sales plummeted 23.3 per cent. The Elantra? Sales were up 47.9 per cent.

At some point, Honda needs to address its product issues, not just troubles with production that are out of the company’s control thanks to acts of nature. At some point Honda might be well served to refocus on at least launching new models that earn the stamp of approval of Consumer Reports – particularly given that so many Honda buyers are likely avid consumers of CR.

Nonetheless, DesRosiers believes that before the end of 2011, Honda Canada will find a way to get the Civic a 14th straight crown as Canada’s best-selling car.

“I suspect the Civic is going to win this battle for a couple of reasons,” he says. “First, they have legitimately been supply constrained most of the year and that has cost them sales. Supply should come back to more normal levels the last quarter and this will significantly benefit the Civic.

“But more importantly there are a lot of egos in the equation and indeed corporate pride, and to lose the top selling position would be a serious psychological blow to Honda and their dealer body. So I suspect Honda will be pulling out all their tools to fight for this sales crown.”

DesRosiers also makes the point that regardless of whether or not the Elantra manages to best the Civic, Elantra sales “will still be up in the 40-plus per cent range and even if they finish second will be widely viewed as one of the most successful passenger cars in the market this year.”

Another big winner this year is the Volkswagen Jetta. Sales of VW’s compact are up a stunning 145.7 per cent this year to date and that has the Jetta taking sixth spot on Canada’s best-selling car list.

“The other two passenger cars that are very successful this year are the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze,” says DesRosiers. The Cruze is now Canada’s No. 4 best-selling car and sales of the new Ford Focus are up 6.1 per cent, making it Canada’s No. 7 seller on the year.

On the light truck side, the Ford F-Series pickup continues to be not just Canada’s best-selling light truck, but also the country’s best-selling vehicle.

“The pickup truck market itself is very interesting in that there have been massive incentives in this segment virtually all year, yet large pickup trucks as a group are only up by 1.0 per cent in a light truck market that is up by 1.5 per cent,” says DesRosiers. “These incentives have thus largely NOT worked and you wonder why in the heck did the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) get into this war…”

A few other notables: Dodge Journey sales are up 50 per cent on the year. Well-timed and smartly placed sales incentives have combined here with the remake of the Journey’s cabin to make this crossover a big winner for 2011.

Meantime, the Ford Escape crossover has also managed to slide into 4th place among light trucks even though this is an aging model. The Escape is a real bargain in its last full model year before the expected replacement arrives.

And then there is the made-in-Canada Chevrolet Equinox. Sales are up 25.5 per cent on the year. The Equinox is a very solid crossover and one well-priced – even more so this summer with GM Canada’s Employee Pricing promotion in place.

Here are the full details of Canada’s top 10 cars and light trucks through the end of July:

Passenger Cars



Vehicle

2011

2010

% gain/loss

1

Honda Civic

29,974

31,604

-5.2%

2

Hyundai Elantra

29,051

20,645

40.7%

3

Mazda3

22,069

31,034

-28.9%

4

Chevrolet Cruze

21,696

-

NA

5

Toyota Corolla

21,574

23,762

-9.2%

6

Volkswagen Jetta

16,391

6,672

145.7%

7

Ford Focus

15,409

14,522

6.1%

8

Hyundai Accent

13,638

16,753

-18.6%

9

Ford Fusion

12,618

12,902

-2.2%

10

Hyundai Sonata

10,429

8,390

24.3%

Light Trucks



Vehicle

2011

2010

% gain/loss

1

Ford F-Series

55,390

56,011

-1.1%

2

Dodge Caravan

36,098

34,612

4.3%

3

Dodge Ram

34,324

31,746

8.1%

4

Ford Escape

27,506

26,682

3.1%

5

GMC Sierra

26,043

26,626

3.1%

6

Chevrolet Silverado

22,729

24,103

-5.7%

7

Dodge Journey

19,192

12,792

50.0%

8

Hyundai Santa Fe

15,591

15,767

-1.1%

9

Chevrolet Equinox

13,936

11,105

25.5%

10.

Honda CR-V

13,666

15,249

-10.4%



-Source: DesRosiers Automotive Consultants

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