Healthy November sales for GM help restore the old world order

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By Jeremy Sinek

We’ve gotten used to General Motors of Canada issuing sales reports that, um, accentuate the positive. For this November, though, the Oshawa automaker’s release didn’t really need to selectively emphasise the 59-per cent retail sales surge achieved by its core brands (Chevrolet-Buick-GMC-Cadillac).

The fact is, the whole picture looked bright for GM in November. Even including fleet sales, GM’s core-brand sales jumped 50 per cent. And even if you further include the year-ago numbers for the brands and models that no longer exist, GM Canada’s sales were still up 33.7 per cent.

This was the first full month of sales for GM’s crucial new Cruze compact, which posted 1,308 sales despite internal competition from its outgoing predecessor, Cobalt, of which GM sold 1,860 copies.

All told, it was enough to restore GM, for the first time since April, to its usual ranking as the top-selling automaker in Canada (though Ford still leads its year-to-date). It also helped propel the total market to a robust 13.6-per cent advance over last November, even with one fewer selling day.

The total of just under 116,000 wasn’t a near record like October was, but it was a solid middle-of-the-range level for a month that, over the previous decade, varied between 102,000 (last year) and 130,000 (in 2001).

It was a rising tide that lifted almost all boats, with the notable exception of Toyota Canada (down 24.5-per cent) and the less notable exception of Suzuki (-8.1 per cent). Still, a little perspective is in order. Last November, Detroit tanked while Toyota Canada sales spiked 26 per cent, to the extent that for that one month, the habitual “import” sales leader was also the market leader, period.

Bottom line, this November marked a return to the old order, with the top three sales rankings occupied by GM, Ford (up 15.6 per cent) and Chrysler (33 per cent) respectively, and Toyota Canada still leading the offshore-based automakers ahead of Honda Canada (up 22.3 per cent). Even Hyundai took a break from its pursuit of the Honda brand, though year-to-date they are still neck and neck – Honda, 112,633; Hyundai 112,403.

The other big trends of 2010 maintained their momentum in November: Detroit (up 27 per cent) continued to claw back market share from the offshore brands (4.1 per cent); and light trucks once again romped ahead (up 27 per cent) while passenger cars stood still (0.4 per cent).

Among the market newcomers, Nissan’s youth-oriented Juke seems to have struck a chord, posting 411 sales in its first full month. Mitsubishi sold 267 of its new RVR compact SUVs even as it grew sales of the slightly larger Outlander by 71 per cent. The Nissan Juke, in particular, makes an interesting comparison with Toyota Canada’s three Scion models, which registered a combined 255 sales in their second full month. To be fair, though, Scion is so far available only in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver; an additional 40 stores in 30 markets are planned for next spring.

Volkswagen Canada was helped to record November sales by its new 2011 Jetta, sales of which (2,070) tripled compared with last November’s sales of its predecessor. Other brands achieving record November sales included BMW, Mercedes-Benz, MINI, Mitsubishi and Porsche. Chrysler Canada reported November-record sales for its top-selling Dodge models – Grand Caravan, Journey and Ram pickup.