General Motors helps hoist September sales to new heights

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By Jeremy Sinek

That shattering noise you heard in September was the sound of records being smashed by Canadian automobile dealers. The market’s 2014 growth streak didn’t just maintain momentum in September, it accelerated.

The gain of 12.6 per cent was the biggest yet, in a year that hasn’t seen a single down month so far. The total of just under 168,000 cars and light trucks was fully 25 per cent above the previous 10-year average for September sales.

Even more remarkable, this year’s September sales tally was based on two fewer selling days than last year.
In percentage terms, Mitsubishi, up 41 per cent, led the charge. No, that wasn’t based on the fact that its Mirage mini car wasn’t fully in play last September; most of Mitsubishi’s September spurt was based on sales of its RVR and Outlander SUVs.

A resurgent General Motors, though, contributed most of the added volume. Oshawa’s 34-per cent surge was enough to boost it out of the Big-3 basement for the month, relegating Chrysler Canada to an unaccustomed third for September. Despite a robust 20-per cent boost of its own, Chrysler also fell to second place behind Ford year-to-date. Still, it had taken Ford a lot longer this year to overcome Chrysler’s customary early lead in the overall market leadership race.

While many brands boasted all-time September or any-month records, there were a couple of backsliders. We shouldn’t read too much into Jaguar Land Rover’s seven-per cent dip, since it was off the base of an exceptionally buoyant September last year. More interesting is that Kia retreated 15.4 per cent off the base of a year-ago month that was also a loser. And that’s not an outlier. Having declined 6.9 per cent in calendar 2013, Kia sales are down a further  4.1 per cent year-to-date in 2014.

With Hyundai sales essentially flat year-to-date, the Koreans’ combined sales are down 1.5 per cent in an overall market that is up 5.5 per cent. At the same time Detroit is up 4.7 per cent, while the Europeans and the Japanese brands are gaining share with growth of eight and 8.4 per cent respectively.

Leading the Japanese charge is Nissan, largely on the strength of incremental volume from its new $9,998 Micra subcompact. With its somewhat larger but also keenly priced Versa Note also growing its sales, Nissan (along with Mitsubishi and its Mirage) has helped propel a 12-per cent growth in the subcompact segment after years of stagnation or decline.

Even so, affordable econoboxes are far from being the most impressive category. Year-to-date, subcompacts’ 12-per cent growth is matched by high-end luxury sedans and large vans, and handily beaten by large SUVs (19 per cent) and high-end sports cars (59 per cent).

More significant in volume terms is the 18-per cent expansion of the compact SUV/CUV category. With compact car sales essentially stagnant, small SUVs are now the largest single segment in Canada.

Other segments that grew faster than the overall market include intermediate and luxury SUVs and small vans. Large and small pickups and entry luxury cars grew, but slower than the overall market; and the big losers were intermediate sedans and entry sporty cars, down 14 and 16 per cent respectively.