Canada’s auto dealers have buyers, but volume is hard to come by
Heading into the spring of 2020, Canada’s auto dealers had cars and no buyers. Consumer confidence fell off a cliff in the middle of March as lockdowns, shutdowns, and meltdowns led to the kind of slowdown not seen in our lifetimes.
Heading into the spring of 2022, Canada’s auto dealers have buyers, but no cars.
To be fair, there are some cars, some SUVs, some trucks, and even some vans. In fact, there’s enough that even with empty auto dealer lots, auto sales were down only 12 per cent during the first-quarter of 2022. There simply aren’t enough vehicles – not even remotely enough vehicles – to build inventory to the kind of levels we expect.
With limited supply, automakers have no reason to deeply incentivize vehicles. Without incentives, and with rising costs across the entire supply chain, vehicles prices are rising. Average transaction prices have soared past $40,000; the typical auto loan now costs more than $700 per month and runs for seven years.
Driving By Numbers: Canada’s 10 best-selling vehicles in 2022’s first-quarter
Driving By Numbers: Pickup truck sales in Canada in 2022’s first quarter
In other words, while still combining to sell nearly 340,000 vehicles in Canada over the course of three months to kickstart the year, automobile manufacturers are still able to make plenty of money.
But which auto brands are actually doing the most volume at a time when volume is hard to come by?
10. Kia: 14,847, down 6 per cent
It’s a common theme for almost every auto brand under the sun — Kia doesn’t have enough of its in-demand products. The Seltos, Sorento, Sportage, and Telluride line of utility vehicles were down 21 per cent in the first-quarter. That’s more than 2,000 lost sales over the course of just three months. Kia still managed to gain market share thanks to surging sales of two affordable members of the family: Forte and Soul. The duo was up 34 per cent and accounted for one-third of the brand’s first-quarter volume.
9. Jeep: 16,659, up 11 per cent
Relative to the first-quarter of 2021, no major auto brand had a more improved start to 2022 than Jeep. In fact, across much of the Jeep lineup, sales actually exploded in early 2022. Exclude the nosediving Cherokee (down 74 per cent in Q1) and Jeep volume was actually up 33 per cent over the first three months of 2022. The top-selling Wrangler plays the biggest role in Jeep’s ascent. Sales of the traditional Jeep jumped 47 per cent in the first-quarter, a gain of more than 2,100 units.
8. Ram: 18,815, down 15 per cent
Narrowly missing out on the title of Canada’s best-selling vehicle in the first-quarter — Ford’s F-Series outsold the Ram truck line by only three units — Ram’s No.1 product nevertheless slipped 15 per cent in Q1. Commercial vans are a small part of the business at Ram. The ProMaster and ProMaster City account for 3 per cent of Ram sales in Canada.
7. GMC: 19,619, down 17 per cent
From a market share perspective, GMC’s Sierra and its Chevrolet Silverado twin ate a much bigger slice of the full-size pickup truck pie in 2022’s first-quarter than during the same period one year ago: 40 per cent, up three points. This is despite the fact that sales of the GM trucks, including the Sierra’s 22-per-cent drop, simply can’t measur
e up to recent norms. GMC also suffered from declining volume in other corners of the showroom: Acadia, Canyon, and Savana. The Terrain and GMC’s full-size Yukons are fortunately on the upswing.
6. Nissan: 20,540, down 13 per cent
As the Rogue goes, so goes Nissan Canada. Unfortunately, Rogue volume is only half as strong this year as last. For Nissan, that’s 51 fewer Rogue sales per day during the slowest quarter of the year. The Qashqai, known as the Rogue Sport south of the border, picked up some of the slack with a 73-per-cent year-over-year improvement. Altima and Maxima sales perked up, as well. And Nissan added the Frontier back into the lineup after a one-year hiatus. But that wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the collapse in Rogue sales.
5. Honda: 21,817, down 18 per cent
Typically, Honda is Canada’s third-best-selling auto brand. On the bright side, the Honda Civic is still very secure in its position as Canada’s best-selling car. Unfortunately, Honda’s supply constraints caused the brand’s six-vehicle stable of “light trucks” to suffer a 4,077-unit first-quarter decline. Hardest hit was the Canadian-made CR-V, which plunged 32 per cent for a decrease of 3,705 sales.
4. Chevrolet: 23,490, down 26 per cent
For Chevrolet, 13 different products sold at a slower rate in the early part of this year compared to 2021’s first-quarter. Declines were severe in some cases: the discontinued Spark’s 91-per-cent decline was worth 1,294 fewer sales, the Trailblazer’s 54-per-cent cut lost Chevrolet 1,180 units, and the the high-volume Silverado’s 12-per-cent slide cost Chevrolet 1,745 units. The Bolt, Camaro, Corvette, Blazer, Colorado, Express, Suburban, Tahoe, Traverse, and Trax all reported decreased volume, as well. Can Q2 be better?
3. Hyundai: 26,692, up 8 per cent
Only two of Canada’s 10 top-selling auto brands in 2022’s first-quarter, and one of only six of Canada’s 20 top-selling auto brands, Hyundai actually sold more vehicles during the first three months of 2022 than during the same period one year ago. Not only did Hyundai have enough product to do so, Hyundai also completed the task primarily due to an increase in car sales. Year-over-year, the Elantra and Sonata combined for an additional 1,450 sales in Q1.
2. Toyota: 35,523, down 15 per cent
It’s not necessarily an easy time be a Toyota dealer. There aren’t enough vehicles to go around in showrooms that last winter funneled through more than 7,500 RAV4s and Corollas per month. This year it was below 4,900/month for the RAV4 and Corolla. But it could be worse. Despite a 15-per-cent year-over-year brand-wide decline that’s worse than the industry average, Toyota is actually gaining ground on the No.1 brand. It certainly doesn’t hurt that while other brands are shedding truck sales, Toyota’s pickup tandem were up 41 per cent in Q1.
1. Ford: 41,369, down 22 per cent
Ford’s first-quarter sales lead over its nearest rival was cut in half in 2022 as Ford’s predominant product, the F-Series truck line, collapsed under the weight of supply restrictions. F-Series sales plunged 40 per cent during the first three months of 2022, a loss of 12,000 sales for Canada’s top-selling vehicle. Keep in mind that even during the last prolonged auto sales collapse (the Canadian auto industry plunged 22 per cent in the first-quarter of 2009), F-Series sales were down just 10 per cent. Now, 13 years later, Ford’s top seller — and therefore Ford itself — is bearing the brunt.