New vehicle sales slid 2 per cent in Canada in August – the sixth straight monthly decline – providing another sign that the robust Canadian market has hit a plateau.
Automakers delivered 180,942 vehicles in Canada last month, compared with 183,945 a year earlier.
That's still a strong market, noted industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc.
"I don't see much possibility of upside, but at the same time, I don't see much possibility of a free fall," Mr. DesRosiers said. "I suspect we're going to be bouncing around the two million range, give or take 50,000 units, for the next two or three years, with this being the second year."
Vehicle sales topped two million in 2017 for the first time, but fell about 1 per cent through August compared with a year earlier, putting the prospect of a sixth straight record sales year in jeopardy.
Even with slight declines, car companies and their Canadian dealers should be highly profitable, Mr. DesRosiers pointed out.
August sales were marked by two trends – the continuing decline in market share of the Detroit Three companies as a group and the steady drop in sales of passenger cars in favour of crossover-utility vehicles and sport-utility vehicles.
The share of the Canadian market held by Fiat Chrysler Canada, Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. and General Motors of Canada Co. dropped to 42.2 per cent as of the end of August, from 43.8 per cent a year earlier.
Much of that is because of a slump at Fiat Chrysler, whose sales fell 10 per cent in August after a 33-per-cent plunge in July.
The August decline kicked Fiat Chrysler down to fifth spot, behind Ford and GM, as well as Honda Canada Inc. and Toyota Canada Inc. As recently as 2015, Fiat Chrysler topped the annual sales race in Canada.
Passenger cars captured 29.2 per cent of the market in August, compared with 32 per cent a year earlier.
U.S. sales were flat at about 17 million vehicles on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis, Ford Motor Co. executives said on a conference call with analysts and reporters.
"There are lots of reasons to be optimistic," Mark LaNeve, the company's vice-president of U.S. marketing, sales and service said on the call.
Ford's senior Americas economist, Bryan Bezold, pointed to high consumer confidence and strong employment growth, as well as relatively low gas prices and interest rates that, although rising, are still low.