By Jeremy Sinek
With record October sales now in the bank (up 7.8 per cent to 135,500), could Canada’s automakers and retailers be on track to beat the all-time auto-sales record of just over 1.7 million set back in 2002?
It’s not highly probable, but it might be possible. As of October 31, year-to-date total sales were up 6.8 per cent and actual volume of 1.44 million stood ahead of where 2002 sales were at the same point. At face value, given this year’s track record of only one down month (-1.4 per cent), and growth in every other month ranging from2.8 to 17.9 per cent, a new record looks reasonably do-able.
But here’s the catch: that 10-year-old record was built on a homestretch sprint. An above-average November was followed by a December in which sales vaulted to an unprecedented 141,000 – this, for a month in which sales averaged only 114,000 over the following nine years.
So, to beat 2002’s last two months, sales this November will need to rise only three per cent or so over last November, but then December sales would have to spike almost 23 per cent; or, more realistically, combined November/December sales would need to grow by about 11.2 per cent.
It’s not impossible. November should have the same number of selling days as last year, and although this December has an extra Sunday, the reporting month actually extends to a January 2 cut-off date.
Fresh new products in key market segments should help boost sales. The completely redesigned Ford Fusion, Honda Accord (the coupe joins the sedan in November), and Nissan Altima are lighting a fire under the intermediate-sedan segment.
Nissan has its new high-value Sentra ready to take on the compact sedan segment, plus an all-new crossed-over unibody Pathfinder that’s sure to find more CUV buyers than its “truckulent” body-on-frame predecessor ever did.
In the hot cute-ute segment the all-new Ford Escape is outselling its predecessor. There’s a new Hyundai Santa Fe while Mazda’s CX-5 is selling at almost three times the rate of its 2011 predecessor. Chevrolet’s new Trax goes on sale soon, and Subaru’s XV Crosstrek is a new nameplate that seems to have struck a chord with buyers.
In the entry-luxury category, the baby-Mercedes B-Class is back in business after a one-year hiatus, the Lexus ES is new for 2013, and Cadillac is lighting a fire under the Europeans with its promising new ATS luxury-sport sedan. Said ATS, incidentally, recorded 56 sales in October, after a late-month sales launch.
Clearly that was not enough to save GM from a 4.6-per cent decline for the month as fading pickup sales (the full-size offerings are old, and the compacts out of production) more than offset a 20-per cent spurt in small-car sales (Sonic, Cruze and 75 first-month Sparks).
GM’s weakness pulled down Detroit’s numbers for a market lagging 1.6-per cent combined gain; offshore brands, meanwhile, grew their sales 12.7 per cent.
Little changed in the top-selling models chart, nor is much likely to at this late stage; the only remotely close race is between Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla (currently in that order) in a fight for third place among passenger cars.
Just outside the Top 10, though, the Chevrolet Cruze is only a few hundred units behind the current 10th place finisher, Honda CRV.