Honda's Civic won the overall sales crown among passenger cars for the 17th straight year, though Civic sales were up a modest 3.1 per cent in an overall market that jumped 6.1 per cent. The truth is, compact car sales in 2014 were weak and have been trending that way for some time.
That's no real surprise to market watchers. We did, however, find a few surprises amongst the winners and losers last year.
Sales of most entries were flat in a segment where sales were off 0.3 per cent year-on-year. Among the big sellers, the Hyundai Elantra (No. 2 overall) was down 7.9 per cent, and the Ford Focus (No. 8 overall) down 13.1 per cent.
On a pure percentage basis, the big compact winners were electric vehicles (EVs). The Chevrolet Volt – a plug-in hybrid – saw sales jump 63 per cent, and sales of the pure battery-powered Nissan Leaf were up a staggering 131 per cent. In the chart blue represents numbers for 2013 and red represents numbers for 2014. (Mouse over the bars on the graphs below to see exact numbers) Behind the numbers: EVs got a big boost from healthy factory incentives and price adjustments. What's quite interesting here is that the sales gains were largely confined to central Canada where both Ontario and Quebec continue to offer taxpayer rebates to EV buyers, while the rebates expired in British Columbia. One industry insider said that once the rebates in B.C. went away, EV sales "went off a cliff." Meanwhile, the Matrix is an old model being phased out in Canada.
The traditional family sedan took a beating in 2015, with buyers moving to crossovers and SUVs. Midsize car sales were off 11.1 per cent; of the 22 entries, only four saw a sales increase. Canadians still bought 135,903 midsize sedans last year, but the segment has been in steady decline for more than a decade. In the chart blue represents numbers for 2013 and red represents numbers for 2014. Behind the numbers: Subaru threw its corporate weight behind a total remake of the Legacy and the results were very, very good. If Subaru sold a Legacy wagon, rather than just the sedan, then sales would surely have skyrocketed. Alas, the Americans don't want a Legacy wagon, so we don't get one in Canada. Prius sales utterly collapsed. The current and outgoing Prius is as old as dirt in terms of design and engineering. The marketplace knows it, Toyota Canada knows it, and many know full well that a reinvented Prius is on the way this year.
Canadians bought a few more luxury cars last year, with sales up 4.6 per cent to 75,072, which makes the Mercedes-Benz B-Class stand out all the more – sales were up a stunning 72 per cent. Lexus, meanwhile, saw sales of the IS 300/250/350 jump 53 per cent. In the chart blue represents numbers for 2013 and red represents numbers for 2014. Behind the numbers: The B-Class and the A3 were reinvented last year and buyers responded in an utterly predictable way – they jumped in with both feet. The A3 and the B are the most affordable models from Audi and Merc, respectively, thus it's not surprising to see the typically penny-pinching Canadian car buyer respond. The 3-Series remained Canada's most popular luxury car, but the sales slide suggests BMW might want to put more energy and effort into its most important model.
Canadians bought a record 1.85 million new light vehicles in 2014, with a paltry 13,492 of them pricier luxury rides. We just don't fall over ourselves chasing fancy cars. Sales here were up 6.2 per cent, for the record. The segment leader, Mercedes E-Class enjoyed a nice bump in sales, but BMW's 5-Series had a down year. The big winner was Merc's S-Class, where sales more than doubled. In the chart blue represents numbers for 2013 and red represents numbers for 2014. Behind the numbers: Mercedes has been putting huge resources into updating the S-Class with new styling and amazing technology. The payoff is a huge jump in sales. Acura, too, has been putting more energy and enthusiasm into its top-of-the-line RLX and while the actual numbers are small compared to Mercedes, the percentage gain shows progress. BWM, meanwhile, seems to have lost interest in supporting its core model, including the 5-Series.
This is that tiny sliver of the marketplace where gearheads go to love – Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911, Jaguar F-Type , Audi R8 and so on. Just 5,399 Canadians indulged in these delicious bits of automotive excellence, which means sales were up a very healthy 24.7 per cent. The 'Vette was the big winner on the year, and with good reason. It's the best value in this select bunch and by a wide margin. In the chart blue represents numbers for 2013 and red represents numbers for 2014. Behind the numbers: The Corvette was remade last year and the marketplace applauded. Jaguar added a coupe version of the F-Type, which explains the sales gain. The Boxster is an excellent car, but Porsche is too busy selling SUVs to pay much attention to marketing this delightful mid-engined convertible.
Subcompact car sales in Canada were up a healthy 12.3 per cent last year, led by the Hyundai Accent (up 22.7 per cent). These are affordable and fuel efficient cars and it's not a surprise to see Canadians decided to buy 116,018 of them. Nissan's Micra joined the fray, with sales of 7,815, but we can't compare year-on-year increases because there was no Micra in 2013. Honda's Fit had a notably good year, too. In the chart blue represents numbers for 2013 and red represents numbers for 2014. Behind the numbers: Even though the Accent is aging, it remains a very good small car. With a healthy push backed by sales incentives, the Accent got new life. The Fit, meanwhile, was totally reinvented last year. And Mitsubishi had adequate supplies of the Mirage to meet demand among buyers for fuel efficient cars.
Canadians don't buy many mainstream sports cars. Sales last year were down 1.6 per cent to 27,627. Perhaps a big number of buyers were waiting for the all-new Ford Mustang to arrive in dealer showrooms in adequate numbers. Subaru and Volkswagen enjoyed strong years here, however. In the chart blue represents numbers for 2013 and red represents numbers for 2014. Behind the numbers: Subaru has pushed the WRX/STI as its performance "halo" car and while the actual numbers are unimpressive, the percentage gain of a model that got a major makeover last year are quite strong. The Veloster is a Hyundai model with an old design.
Source: DesRosiers Automotive Consultants
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