Another month, another record as Detroit fuels Canada’s red-hot auto market


By Jeremy Sinek

October’s sales tally, just shy of 155,000 cars and light trucks, wasn’t just a 6.5-per cent gain over a year-ago month that was itself a record. It was also a stunning 24 per cent higher than the previous-10-year average for October sales.

Year-to-date sales now stand 5.6 per cent ahead of last year’s pace. With 1.58 million sales already in the books, only a major meltdown in November and December could prevent another record year in 2014.

October was marked by an exceptionally close race between the three domestics for overall market leadership. For the month, only 158 units separated first-place Chrysler (up 23 per cent) from third-place General Motors (plus 7.3 per cent). But Ford held onto the year-to-date lead despite a 2.6-per cent dip in sales.

For the fourth month in a row, Detroit’s combined performance (up 8.3 per cent) outpaced the offshore-based competition (5.3 per cent). However Detroit’s weaker performance in the first half of the year means its YTD market share is still fractionally behind last year, at 44.7 per cent.

October was a rare up month for the Koreans. Hyundai and Kia combined grew their sales 8.8 per cent, slightly more than Detroit’s growth and well in front of the Japanese and Europeans. Year-to-date, however, the Koreans still trail last year’s sales by 0.7 per cent.

Among the Detroit Three, car and light-truck sales both grew at about eight per cent, but among the import brands, light-truck sales (up 14 per cent) far outpaced cars (-0.5 per cent). A significant driver of the domestics’ car growth was the Chrysler 200, which more than doubled its year-ago sales to become the top-selling intermediate car for the month. The Chevrolet Malibu also continued a run of winning months.

As for the imports’ light-truck growth, put that down to surging sales of their compact CUVs such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4. (At the same time, Subaru’s Outback midsize CUV had its best month ever – and helped push the brand to its best October ever).

Staying with compact CUVs, it’s interesting to note that Jeep’s new-last-October Cherokee has become a significant player in the segment without significantly diminishing sales of its previous small offerings, Compass and Patriot. Yes, Jeep calls the Cherokee a midsizer, but in price and market positioning it competes directly with other automakers’ compacts.

The ascendancy of compact CUVs as Canada’s biggest auto segment is still led by the Ford Escape. Up 17 per cent year-to-date, the Escape is charging up the top sellers chart. In August it displaced the fading Hyundai Elantra from sixth place in the Top 10. Now as of October it has edged up into fifth position at the expense of the Dodge Grand Caravan (this, despite the minivan’s own 12.1-per cent sales surge this year.)

October was the first full month of sales for the redesigned 2015 Honda Fit, which scored one of its best months ever with a 60-per cent sales spike. At the same time sales of the Civic slipped 13.6 per cent. But Honda doesn’t see that as evidence of cannibalisation:

“We had a great pent-up demand for the all new Fit, and the delivery of the vehicle is catching up as we speak,” a spokesperson told Canadian AutoWorld.