The Canadian auto industry posted its sixteenth consecutive deceleration in sales in June, contracting another 7.2 per cent during the month compared to the same period last year.
The latest monthly report from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. reveals virtually all the top-selling brands such as Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler reporting lower sales.
Year-to-date, auto manufacturers saw sales of roughly 980,000, compared to just over one million during the same period last year.
“We’ve been expecting single-digit declines all year and that’s exactly what we’ve been getting. The auto markets have always been cyclical and we’re clearly in a correction period,” says Dennis DesRosiers, president of the Toronto-based consultancy.
According to DesRosiers, most vehicles are built to last for around a decade, or about 300,000 kilometres. Most people bought new vehicles in the early part of the cycle and they continue to hold on to it, leaving the market saturated.
DesRosiers expects this downward movement to continue this year and possibly into 2020.
What is more puzzling is the decline in sales of luxury vehicles — a trend DesRosiers has been noting since January. Luxury vehicles are a more reliable segment, and until recently, had been one of the fastest growing since this century. In 2008, luxury cars held 7.1 per cent of the country’s market share, but by 2018, that share had grown to 12.1 per cent.
Luxury cars have a shorter lifespan, and a regular turnover with income levels often not deemed an issue for their buyers. Mercedes-Benz saw a 17.7-per-cent drop year-to-date, with contracting Audi just over 20 per cent and BMW falling 6.6 per cent during the period.
“We wonder if some of that is ‘pretend’ luxury buyers, people that got into the luxury market but really weren’t legitimate luxury buyers,” said DesRosiers. “Now that vehicle is 8 or 9 years old we’re back down to a more normal situation and they just can’t afford to go in.”
While overall auto sales may be down, the actual ownership of vehicles has never been higher in Canada. According to DesRosiers, in 2000, 17 million, or two-thirds of the population owned a vehicle — that figure now stands at 86 per cent, or 28 million.
“We’re becoming very American-like in our ownership habits and the types of vehicles we’re driving,” said DesRosiers. U.S. Department of Transportation data shows that there were 0.77 cars for every person in America in 2016.
In terms of individual brands, Ford led the pack once again with 154,203 units sold in Canada this year to date, marginally lower compared to the same period last year. DesRosiers attributes Ford’s continued dominance in the market to its F-series and the latest edition of the F-150 heavy pickup truck. General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Toyota followed Ford, respectively.
“Looking at the glass half full, if sales for the remainder of 2019 track along current levels, we will still have one of the better sales years ever in Canada,” David Adams, president of industry association Global Automakers of Canada, said in a separate report.
The slowdown in Canada is in sharp contrast to auto sales across the border, which rose nearly 2 per cent to 206,083, driven by a 56 per cent jump in FCA’s Ram sales.