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New Dodge Ram pickup trucks for sale are seen at an auto mall in Ottawa on April 26, 2021.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Anyone who has tried to buy a new car or truck over the past year has heard the same disappointing words from auto dealers: Join the waiting list.

Yet while global supply chains remain congested and a worldwide shortage in semiconductors persists, there are rare signs that automakers are finding ways to navigate these challenges. This week Statistics Canada reported trade figures for the month of March, which showed car and light truck imports surged 19.2 per cent that month compared with February.

Statscan attributed the jump to a recent ramp up in production by North American manufacturers. Meanwhile, the agency said it was the second monthly increase in a row for imports of motor vehicles and parts.

However, the past year has been marked by dramatic start-and-stop surges in the movement of vehicles compared with what would be seen in a normal year before the pandemic.

Monthly change in auto imports

Monthly, per cent

2021/2022

2018/2019

35%

30

25

20

15

10

5

0

-5

-10

-15

-20

-25

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

J

F

M

the globe and mail, Source: statistics canada

Monthly change in auto imports

Monthly, per cent

2021/2022

2018/2019

35%

30

25

20

15

10

5

0

-5

-10

-15

-20

-25

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

J

F

M

the globe and mail, Source: statistics canada

Monthly change in auto imports

Monthly, per cent

2021/2022

2018/2019

35%

30

25

20

15

10

5

0

-5

-10

-15

-20

-25

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

J

F

M

the globe and mail, Source: statistics canada

That means it will take several months before we know whether imports of vehicles have stabilized.

Still, the Statscan report shows that for now the auto sector is once again an important driver of Canadian trade.

Exports of motor vehicles and parts were the second largest contributor after energy to Canada’s record $63.6-billion in exports, while the segment was the fourth-largest contributor to imports of $61.1-billion, also a record high.

Decoder is a weekly feature that unpacks an important economic chart.

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