Auto sales find their groove – finally – with another record year

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By Jeremy Sinek

The last time Canada’s auto market set a new sales record, it came after 11 years of trying. It took until 2013 for car and light-truck sales to finally surpass the previous record set way back in 2002.

But already that shiny new 2013 record is history, demolished by 2014 sales that surged 6.1 per cent, to 1.85 million from 1.73 million. And that may not be the end of it. Ford is predicting another record setting pace for 2015.

Veteran analyst Dennis DesRosiers forecast growth of one to two per cent in 2015, as quoted in the Globe and Mail.

There wasn’t a single down month in 2014, but the year saved its best for last, spiking 16.1 per cent in a December that had one more selling day than 2013.

Most of that growth was made by domestics. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler’s combined sales soared 30.5 per cent for the month, versus just 5.3 per cent for the offshore brands. That helped the U.S.-based companies recover a little market share for the full year, from 44.6 to 44.9 per cent.

Detroit’s robust finish to the year was driven by Ford and Chrysler sprinting neck-and-neck for the overall sales-leadership tape. Both automakers’ sales soared 40 per cent in December – enough for Ford to retain the narrow lead it already held after the first 11 months.

December also helped cement another big trend of 2014 – the swing from passenger cars to light trucks.

Over the full year, vans, pickups and SUV/CUVs grew their share of the market to 58.7 per cent, from 56.1 per cent in 2013.

The Ford F-Series pickup remained the top-selling nameplate, followed by its GM and Ram rivals, the latter sealing the deal with a 51-per cent spike in December.

F-Series numbers in December included its first deliveries of the all-new aluminum-bodied F-150, though not enough of them to account for F-Series’ impressive 37-per cent sales surge; most of that growth came from left-over 2014s, said Hollander.

When all is said and done, though, the overall growth in large-pickup sales only matched the overall market. The main driver of light-truck growth was compact CUVs. In fact, according to Canadian AutoWorld classifications that segment grew 16.5 per cent in 2014 and has now surpassed compact cars as the country’s most popular vehicle category.

Among the offshore-based automakers, the Japanese and the Europeans slightly outperformed the overall market (up 7.1 and 7.8 per cent respectively) but the Koreans pulled the group down with a 0.7-per cent dip for Hyundai and Kia combined.

The Hyundai Elantra, which only a couple of years ago was threatening to usurp the Honda Civic’s passenger-car sales throne, declined 7.9 per cent in 2014.

That left the Civic securely ensconced as the top car for the 17th year in a row.

Other 2014 highlights include:
•    Ford Escape climbed to fifth from seventh in the Top 10 with a 15.6-per cent sales gain

•    Mercedes-Benz was the best-selling luxury brand

•    Porsche posted the highest growth (34.0 per cent) of any company

•    Jeep brand sales grew 58 per cent

•    Annual record sales claimed by Subaru, Porsche, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota trucks

•    Nissan Rogue sales up 71 per cent in 2014

•    The delivery of two 4C sports cars in December marked the first Alfa Romeo sales in Canada in more than 20 years