Imports drive Canada July vehicle sales higher
TORONTO (Reuters) -- Vehicle sales in Canada climbed nearly 5 percent in July from a year earlier, led by a big boost in sales of imports and steady volumes for the Detroit 3 automakers, whose soaring truck sales more than trumped a slight decline in demand for cars.
"A month ago, I pointed out that we were on track to challenge for a record high for the year as a whole and this very much keeps that in play," said Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets. "We're not officially calling for auto sales to surpass 2002, which was the all time high, but it does look as if this year's going to challenge that year."
Total July sales rose 4.7 percent to 148,184 vehicles as truck sales climbed 8.6 percent to 84,840 vehicles and car sales declined 0.1 percent to 63,344 vehicles, according to data compiled by independent automotive analyst Dennis DesRosiers and released on Wednesday.
Sales of imports rose 9.1 percent last month, boosted by double-digit gains for Japanese automakers, while Canadian sales of General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler nameplates rose just 0.4 percent, according to DesRosiers.
"Volumes for the Detroit Three were flat year-over-year, a significant improvement from a 9 percent slide in June," said Scotiabank economist Carlos Gomes.
Ford Canada claimed top-seller status for the month and year to date, with total July vehicle sales up 2.2 percent to 27,940 vehicles and January-July sales 1.4 percent higher at 170,098 vehicles.
Ford truck sales for the month jumped 11.2 percent to 21,322 vehicles, but car sales slumped 19 percent to 6,618 vehicles.
"The strength in truck sales certainly stands out because that runs counter to what we saw in the first half of the year," Porter said. "The moderation in gas prices through the late spring, even if they did back up a bit in July, likely has helped support truck sales."
Chrysler Canada said July sales rose 3 percent to 24,162 vehicles from 23,385 in the same month last year. Year-to-date, sales were up 6.5 percent to 154,448 vehicles, the company's best performance since 2000.
Chrysler car sales declined 9 percent to 3,430 vehicles, but truck sales climbed 5.7 percent to 20,732 vehicles.
"With our fuel efficient, affordable and stylish Dodge Dart compact car just starting to land on Canadian soil, we are confident we will be able to strengthen the car side of our business," said David Buckingham, chief operating officer at Chrysler Canada.
Sales of the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan, the third-highest selling vehicle in Canada, jumped 20 percent to 5,222 in July.
Ram pickup sales rose 3 percent to 6,515 and Jeep Wrangler sales climbed 16 percent 2,205, said the company, whose U.S. parent is controlled by Italy's Fiat.
General Motors of Canada said total sales, unadjusted for two additional selling days in the July 2011, fell 5.6 percent to 19,206 vehicles.
"GM Canada remains disciplined in our strategy to focus on newly launched products in the retail market," said Marc Comeau, vice president of sales, service and marketing. "With the upcoming launches of the Chevrolet Spark, Malibu and Cadillac ATS, our dealers are well positioned."
In the United States, the Detroit 3 reported lower-than-expected July auto sales on Wednesday as high U.S. unemployment and weak consumer confidence kept buyers on the sidelines.
Toyota Canada said monthly sales rose 30 percent to 15,819 cars, sport utility vehicles and trucks in July. Production and sales last year were hurt by the impact of a March earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Toyota-branded sales rose 30 percent to 14,028 vehicles, Lexus sales climbed 18 percent to 1,107, and Scion sales jumped 47 percent to 684 vehicles.
Honda Canada sales jumped 25.5 percent to 9,604 vehicles from 7,654 vehicles in July 2011.Contact Automotive News