One of the hottest segments in the Canadian auto market is going to get a little more crowded.
Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. and Toyota Canada Inc. will unveil subcompact crossover utility vehicles at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, joining a niche of the market where they don't participate now and one that is taking over from subcompact cars as a key point of entry for new vehicle buyers.
Ford took the wraps off the EcoSport Monday, while Toyota will introduce the C-HR on Thursday at the show.
They're hopping into a segment where sales grew 31 per cent in the first nine months of 2016 from year-earlier levels. That compared with the gain of 3 per cent for the overall Canadian market in that period.
"Never underestimate the ability of a vehicle company to find a niche," said industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc., which compiled the data.
The big jump in sales of subcompact crossovers has come at the expense of subcompact cars, which fell 13 per cent in the first nine months of 2016 from year-earlier levels.
Mazda Canada Inc. has stopped selling its Mazda2 subcompact car in Canada and is focusing its efforts to land entry-level buyers on the CX-3, which ranked second in the subcompact crossover segment as of the end of September. The HR-V sold by Honda Canada Inc. stood first.
The subcompact car segment "is dying off and has been for some time," Stephen Beatty, corporate vice-president of Toyota Canada, said Monday.
Only two of 11 subcompact cars posted sales increases through September.
The subcompact crossover segment is expected to grow to more than 4 per cent of the market by 2018 from 1 per cent in 2014, Tim Witt, Ford Canada's vice-president of sales, said in an e-mail response to questions.
"There will be 13 entries in the segment by 2018 and Ford wants to be part of that," Mr. Witt said. There are nine subcompact crossovers or sport-utility vehicles in the market now.
EcoSport will go on sale in Canada in early 2018, he said.
It's aimed at urban buyers looking for an entry-level crossover as well as customers who want the utility of the vehicle but don't need as much cargo space as they would get in larger models, he said.
The vehicle has been sold in South America since 2003, but has been redesigned and tailored to North America, he noted.
The C-HR will go on sale in Canada next spring, Mr. Beatty said. It was designed for urban buyers looking for utility and will be imported from Turkey.
The growth in crossovers is occurring in all sizes, but notably a step up from subcompact in the compact crossover segment, which is now the largest segment in Canada. The RAV4, Toyota Canada's compact crossover, is now the best-selling vehicle in the company's lineup.
Mr. Beatty said, however, that he does not expect the C-HR to bite into sales of the compact Corolla sedan, which is the best-selling passenger car in the Toyota Canada lineup.
"Typically, the Corolla buyer is headed to RAV4 if they're not going back to Corolla," he said.
Both he and Mr. Witt said prices will be revealed later.
Mr. DesRosiers noted the growth of crossovers is helping to push auto makers' truck offerings to 70 per cent of the vehicle market in Canada.
"I focus on the U in SUV," he said.
Crossovers appeal to young families, or any buyer who wants more space or utility than is available in a car, he said.