To no one’s surprise, Canadian new-vehicle sales ended 2019 down -- by 3.6 percent -- after a lackluster December.
Automakers sold 1.92 million new vehicles last year with 110,370 of those delivered in the final month of the year. December's sales were down 4.6 percent, according to the Automotive News Data Center in Detroit.
“We predicted the market to be down three or four percent and that’s exactly what happened,” said Dennis DesRosiers, head of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants in Toronto.
Sales missed the two-million plateau for the second consecutive year but they remained above 1.9-million units sold for the fourth straight year.
“You can make a lot of money in a 1.9-million market,” DesRosiers said.
“I tell dealers it’s not bad at all. It’s pretty darn good,” said Robert Karwel, senior manager of J.D. Power’s automotive practice in Canada.
Retail sales for the year are down about 3.5 percent, according to Karwel.
“But let’s not panic,” he said.
DesRosiers echoed Karwel word for word in describing the industry as being in a “flatline situation.”
“There’s no sign the market will be in a free fall going forward, but there’s no sign of an uptick either,” he said.
Data varies slightly by analyst, but car sales are down about 22-24 percent for the year while the light-truck segment, which comes with much higher profit, climbed about two percent. Trucks made up 75 percent of all new-vehicle sales in 2019.
“I would have thought 70 would be about it,” DesRosiers said of the marketshare held by trucks. “But, build it and they will come.”
While J.D. Power is still waiting on some data, Karwel expects the average transaction price in Canada in 2019 to top C$36,000 ($27,755 USD).
“People are choosing to spend more,” he said. “Rates are still historically quite low. Customers are still generally spending up.”
Here’s a look at how other automakers fared in December:
Ford still tops
Ford Canada finished 2019 as the country’s top-selling automaker overall and had Canada’s top-selling brand and vehicle.
Ford brand sales totaled 279,195 units, down 3.6 percent over 2018. The F Series pickup — with 145,064 units sold — was the best-selling pickup for the 54th consecutive year and the best-selling vehicle for the tenth straight year.
The Ford Escape, with 39,503 sold, was the automaker’s second best-selling vehicle.
Ford EcoSport sales increased 18 percent in 2019 to 7,437 units sold.
On the luxury side, Lincoln sales were up six percent in 2019 to 8,679 vehicles.
From a monthly perspective, Ford’s total sales were down 1.8 percent in December, during which the company delivered 15,760 vehicles.
Toyota's banner year
Toyota Canada managed to put together its best sales year on record despite a December during which sales plunged 16 percent while Hyundai and Kia both posted sizable annual gains after increased December sales.
Toyota sold 237,091 vehicles in 2019, up 2.4 percent over last year, establishing a new high-water mark for the company.
The Toyota and Lexus brands each set new sales records with 211,551 and 25,540 vehicles sold, respectively. Toyota brand sales were up 1.9 percent for the year while Lexus sales climbed 5.9 percent.
“We were fortunate [last] year. It was all about the product we launched. Our customers have embraced the new product,” Cyril Dimitris, Toyota Canada vice-president of sales and marketing told Automotive News Canada in a phone interview Friday.
Last year marked the launch of the new Toyota RAV4, including a hybrid version, new Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Supra.
Dimitris said most of the automaker’s sales gains came from the Corolla and RAV4, which is made in Ontario. He said he sent a note to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada President Frank Voss, praising the factory employees for their work.
RAV4 has become the top-selling vehicle outside of the full-size-truck segment, where the Ford F Series reigns as Canada’s best-selling vehicle.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE accounted for 20 percent of all RAV4 sales last year.
Dimitris said that in some parts of the country, sales were split 50/50 between hybrids and RAV4s powered by internal combustion engines.
“Wait times were quite long [for the hybrid]. We could have sold more if we had them,” Dimitris said.
Toyota Canada recorded its best year for electrified vehicles sales with 34,698 Toyota and Lexus EVs — including hybrids — sold, up 45 percent from 2018. Electrified vehicle sales represented 14.6 percent of the automaker’s overall sales in 2019.
Looking at the month of December, Toyota brand sales totaled 11,500, down 19 percent over the same time a year ago. Sales of Toyota cars were off 23 percent to 3,744. Camry and Corolla sales were down 41 and 17 percent, respectively. On the truck side, only the Highlander posted a sales increase, up seven percent to 924 units.
Sienna minivan sales fell 66 percent to 580 sold while even the popular RAV4 dropped six percent to 3,793 but remained the automaker’s top-selling vehicle.
Lexus brand sales were up four percent to 1,780 units. Lexus got a boost from its truck sales, which were up 14 percent while car sales plummeted 35 percent to just 223 units. The Lexus RX led truck sales with 723 units sold, up 22 percent.
Hyundai, Kia gains
Hyundai and Kia capped the year with increased December sales, helping both post sizable annual gains, too.
Hyundai sold 7,914 vehicles, including its luxury Genesis brand, in December, up 14 percent over the same period last year.
The Elantra sedan was the automaker’s best-selling vehicle in December at 2,150 sold. The Tucson was Hyundai’s top-selling truck last month at 1,839 sold. The Kona was close behind at 1,773.
The automaker sold 134,732 units in 2019, up four percent over the previous year.
Meanwhile, Kia’s December sales rose four percent to 4,491 vehicles sold while its annual figure increased five percent to 76,630 vehicles.
FCA ends on positive note
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles saw its fourth-quarter sales climb 14 percent when compared to the same period last year. None of the Detroit 3 reports on a monthly basis so December sales would only be estimates.
On an annual basis, FCA sales dropped one percent, though the Ram brand managed to post its second-best year on record with 101,971 vehicles sold in 2019. Ram finished the year strong with 22,452 trucks sold in the fourth quarter, a 27-percent increase when compared to the same period a year ago.
“The fourth quarter and full-year sales results for 2019 reinforce the particular strengths of our Ram and Jeep brands, ” Reid Bigland, FCA Canada CEO, said in a statement.
For the year, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Wrangler set new annual sales records with 19,459 and 25,659 sold, respectively. Grand Cherokee sales were up 38 percent last year while Wrangler sales rose four percent.
It wasn’t all good news at FCA Canada. Chrysler brand sales fell 40 percent in 2019 to 5,681 units with Pacifica minivan sales off 38 percent to 3,731 units. Dodge sales were down 15 percent on the year with only the Durango posting an increase, up 33 percent to 9,220 units.
General Motors Canada saw its fourth-quarter and annual sales both sink.
Sales during the final three months of the year fell six percent to 53,186 while annual sales decreased 11 percent to 256,795 vehicles.
GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado sales were both up in fourth quarter — 10 and 11 percent, respectively — but they were both down 3.3 percent for the year.
Sandor Piszar, vice-president of sales, service and marketing for GM Canada, appeared to be undeterred by the annual numbers and encouraged by fourth-quarter performance.
“We achieved solid year-end results in 2019,” he said in a statement. “Our fourth quarter saw some significant momentum with pickup sales.
“As Canadian consumer preferences shifted significantly toward crossovers, SUVs and pickups in 2019, we remain well positioned for success in 2020 with our full lineup.”
Cadillac had its best quarter in history, up 15 percent to 3,051 units, led by the XT4 (up 88 percent) and XT5 (up nine percent). Cadillac sales were essentially flat for the year, up just 0.2 percent.
Subaru sales were up 17 percent to 4,671 units last month.
The Crosstrek was the automaker’s top seller with 1,193 sold. The Impreza was Subaru’s top-selling car in December.
Subaru sold 57,524 vehicles in 2019, down just 0.9 percent over 2018.