April sales hit a snag

For the first time since last September, the number of monthly new vehicle sales in Canada, during April, fell below the level for the same month in 2011. Not by much – just 1.4 per cent – but down, nonetheless. Sales were also below the past-five-year average for the month, by 1.1 per cent – the first time that number has gone negative since last August.

It may just be a minor market adjustment from what was an exceptionally strong first quarter. And, as a comparator, April 2011 was a particularly strong month.

But, in addition to a reduction in absolute numbers, April also experienced a drop in SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate), to just below 1.6 million, from above 1.7 million for the first three months of the year (per DesRosiers Automotive Consultants).

Not bad numbers, by any absolute measure, but April did represent a reversal in the several-month trend of above-normal sales. Whether that reversal is just a blip or is a precursor to a greater trend remains to be seen.

As we said last month, no-one really expected the first quarter’s near-record pace to continue unabated, but it was a pleasant thought.

Close race at the top

For the third time in the first four months of 2012, Chrysler (+3.0% from April 2011) outsold Ford (-5.4%) for the month, albeit barely. Year-to-date, as well, Chrysler remained number-one, although by fewer than 600 vehicles and less than a tenth-of-a-point of market share.

General Motors (-6.8%) remained solidly in third place, followed by Toyota (-1.8%) in fourth. With 10.55-per cent market share, year-to-date, Toyota has now clawed back more than a full per cent of share from its 2011 calendar year level, although it remains well short of its 13.0-percent 2009 peak.

Ford (-1.51%) and GM (-1.59%) are the biggest losers in terms of share, year-to-date, while Chrysler’s share is up (0.50%)

After a gangbuster start to the year, Honda (+3.6%) slipped behind Hyundai (+0.2%) again, ceding fifth place in sales to the Korean company, both for the month and year-to-date. Honda has, however, regained 0.8-per cent of share from this time last year – the greatest improvement of any company.

Kia (+18.2%) and Mercedes-Benz (+18.7%) were the greatest year-over-year gainers among the volume players, in April. And both gained share, year-to-date, as well – 0.47 % and 0.12% respectively.

Mazda (-6.9% for the month) has also regained 0.40 per cent of share, year-to-date, and Nissan (-5.9% for the month) has gained 0.32 per cent of share.

Import sales stay steady

Collectively, import brand sales held steady (0.0%) in April, relative to last year, while those of the Detroit Three fell (-3.1%), primarily because of a decline in truck sales (-3.4%).

Import-brand sales claimed 54.3 percent of the market, to the D3’s 45.7 per cent, year-to-date.

Continuing the trend of recent months, passenger car sales were up, albeit slightly (0.9%), and they continue to nibble away at truck’s share dominance. Year-to-date, trucks account for 54.3-per cent of the market to cars’ 43.7 per cent – a 3.8-per cent swing from a year ago.

About Todd Phillips

Todd Phillips is the editorial director of Universus Media Group Inc. and the editor of Canadian auto dealer magazine. Todd can be reached at tphillips@universusmedia.com.

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