Our mid-year report card

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THE MARKET CONTINUES TO GROW BUT THE GAINS ARE FAR FROM EQUALLY DISTRIBUTED

With half of 2013 behind us, new-vehicle sales in Canada are up by 2.2 per cent from the same six months in 2012 and they’re at the highest level for the period in more than eight years. If the current trend continues, the full year will replace 2012 as the second-best ever and could come within striking distance of setting a new record.

While the market continues to grow, slowly but steadily, the gains are far from equally distributed. In a change from the norm of the past decade or so, most of the gains in 2013 can be attributed to the Detroit Three. And most of those are on the truck side of the ledger.

As for the individual players, here’s our assessment of how they are performing in 2013.

Jag-Acura-Chrysler

Acura: A+
Acura seems to have its mojo back. Sales are up 28.5 per cent from last year, making it one of the biggest gainers of the year so far, and enabling a 0.22 per cent gain in share. Current sales are running 15 per cent ahead of the five-year average for the brand, although still well short of their 2008 peak. An all-new MDX should keep the brand healthy for the immediate future and the halo-effect from the forthcoming NSX sports car won’t hurt.

Audi: A
Audi’s sales have leveled off a bit, just 3.0 per cent ahead of last year’s, but they’re still 42 per cent up on their five-year average and the brand is maintaining its market share. Part of its success is a constant stream of new product or variations on what exists — such as the recent expansion of diesel variants. That onslaught just keeps on coming and it is showing no signs of losing momentum.

BMW: A-
BMW’s not looking quite as strong as it did last year. Its sales are flat so far in 2013 and it’s lost a miniscule bit of share — although it’s gained some on arch-rival Mercedes-Benz in the fight for the luxury-car sales title. There’s plenty of new product in the pipeline, however, including a new 4 Series coupe as well as a new 7 Series, so the prognosis is highly positive.

Chrysler: A+
Chrysler is the biggest success story of the year and it’s holding a hot hand. With 43 consecutive months of sales growth, it’s still behind Ford in overall sales but they’re up 7.0 per cent from last year, it’s held the number-one spot in some months, and it’s gained 0.71 per cent in share — more than any other automaker. Sales of the new Ram truck are growing faster than those of any other pickup, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is doing well, there’s a new Cherokee about to launch (replacing the Liberty) and an all-new Fiat 500L could attract a whole new clientele.

Lexus-Ford-Audi

Ford: A-
As was the case last year, after falling behind Chrysler in the early going, Ford is back in its now-familiar first place in the sales race. Overall sales are up 3.2 per cent, running slightly ahead of the market, but its market share is down by 0.16 per cent. The new Fusion is doing well, as is the Escape, and the F-Series remains the best selling model in the country, with sales up about 16 per cent, in spite of entering its last year before a major overhaul. There’s tough new truck competition coming from GM, however, so the Blue Oval can’t sit back and rest on its laurels.

General Motors: A
General Motors is still a shadow of what it used to be but it’s regained some lost ground in 2013 with sales up 3.6 per cent, which puts it ahead of the overall market. Just as important, it’s reversed its steady share decline, regaining 0.19 per cent of share. Perhaps most importantly, there’s new product in some high-volume lines — an all-new Impala and a significantly refreshed Malibu, plus two all-new pickup trucks, which are its biggest sellers. Look for GM’s gains to continue.

Honda: A-
Honda is maintaining the comeback it achieved last year, with overall sales up 4.1 per cent and a 0.16 per cent gain in market share. A new Accord, which earned honours as AJAC’s 2013 Canadian Car of the Year, is helping the cause. But in spite of a quick refresh for 2013, the Civic is in danger of losing its status as Canada’s best-selling car for the first time in 15 years and the new CR-V is not selling as well as it was. Still, Honda’s sales are up 4.9 per cent from their five-year average and the brand is faring better than most of its Japanese rivals.

Hyundai: B+
Hyundai’s long period of rapid growth seems to have stalled. Sales are relatively flat in 2013, up just 0.2 per cent from last year, slightly lagging the market, and market share is down by 0.16 per cent. The good news is that its highest-volume vehicle, the Elantra, is still making gains and looks well-placed to replace the Honda Civic as Canada’s best-selling car. The Santa Fe Sport, which was AJAC’s 2013 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year, is also doing well and it’s about to be joined by a longer-wheelbase, seven-passenger XL model.

Mazda-GM-Subaru

Infiniti: A
Continuing its 2012 comeback, Infiniti’s sales are up 8.5 per cent in 2013 and it’s made a small 0.03 per cent gain in share. Sales are up a solid 15.5 per cent from the brand’s five-year average, it’s affiliation with the Red Bull Formula 1 team and World Champion driver Sebastian Vettel seems to be paying image dividends, and renamed replacements for its top-selling G and JX models are coming on-line. So the future is looking good.

Jaguar: A+
What a difference a year makes. On a percentage basis, Jaguar is the biggest gainer of 2013, with sales up 71.7 per cent. New, more-efficient engine V-6 engines, all-wheel-drive for the XF sedan and the halo effect of the all-new F-Type successor to the iconic XK-E promise to keep the good times rolling.

Kia: B+
The bloom finally seems to have gone off the Kia rose, with sales down 6.8 per cent through the first half of 2013 and a significant loss of 0.4 per cent in market share. It’s not that Kia has done anything wrong — just that other brands are catching up and the competition is getting tougher. New Forte, Rondo and Soul models promise to give the brand a bit of a bump so sales should pick up again before the year is out.

Mercedes-Mini-BMW

Land Rover: A+
While 2013 hasn’t seen as big an advance as 2012 did, sales are solidly up by 10.8 per cent and the now-Indo-British brand has gained another 0.2 per cent in share. All-new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models for 2014, promise more of the same success.

Lexus: A-
Lexus sales are holding their own in 2013, up a modest 2.7 per cent, and market share is exactly the same as at this time last year. There’s a new rear-wheel-drive IS entry-level model coming this fall, however, so the brand seems well placed for further improvement.

Mazda: B+
Mazda seems to be in a holding pattern. While its new Mazda6 and CX-5 models and their SKYACTIV technologies have won critical acclaim, sales are off by 4.4 per cent and the brand has lost 0.28 per cent of share. The top-selling Mazda3 has maintained the same sales pace a last year, but there are all-new hatchback and sedan models due this fall, as well as a long-awaited diesel version of the Mazda6, so expect sales to pick up then.

Mercedes-Benz: B+
After a strong 2012, Mercedes-Benz sales are down by 2.3 per cent in the first half of 2013 and market share has fallen by 0.9 per cent, perhaps reflecting an overall downturn in the upper echelons of the luxury market. But the brand is still the luxury-class sales leader, the Canadian exclusive (in North America) B-Class is doing well, revamped SUVs and an all-new CLA class, as well as several new AMG models show promise, and an all-new S-Class is about ready to launch. So expect things to get better before the year is out.

Porsche-Nissan-Honda

MINI: B+
Is it possible that MINI-mania has peaked? In spite of a raft of new model variants and innovative marketing techniques, MINI sales are down by 9.4 per cent and share has dropped by 0.04 per cent. There’s more new product in the pipeline, however, and an all-new car a year or so away, so this may be a minor blip in the overall scheme.

Mitsubishi: A
After a couple of lacklustre years, Mitsubishi has made solid gains in 2013, with sales up by 8.7 per cent and a 0.08 per cent bump in share. The long-awaited new Mirage sub-compact, along with a new RVR plus a new-for-2014 Outlander should keep the momentum going.

Nissan: B
With marketing efforts focused largely on the low-volume LEAF electric vehicle, Nissan sales have taken a tumble in 2013. They’re down 7.9 per cent and market share has fallen by 0.49 per cent — the greatest loss of any brand. It’s not for lack of good product. The new Sentra and Pathfinder, as well as the Rogue have been doing well. But high-volume players, including the Altima and Versa, have not. There’s a new Versa Note hatchback in the mix that could change that equation before year-end.

Porsche: A+
Porsche’s sales have advanced by 24.1 per cent in 2013 and the brand has gained 0.04 per cent of share. The new 911 product parade keeps on coming, there’s a new Cayenne diesel, and the revised Boxster and Cayman sweeten
the pot. What’s not to like?

Toyota-Hyundai_LandroverSmart: C-
As they did last year, Smart sales have continued to decline. They’re down another 24.1 per cent from last year — combined with a 0.04 per cent share loss – and more than 50 per cent below their five-year average. It seems safe to say that Canadians were more enamoured of the original diesel-engined Smart than the current gasoline or electric models.

Subaru: A+
Subaru is one of the big success stories of 2013, with sales up by 17.4 per cent and a solid 0.25 per cent gain in market share. Those increases were bolstered largely by the addition of the BRZ sports car and the exceptional success of the all-new Forester CUV. Look for more of
the same to follow.

Suzuki: F
Suzuki is just playing out its final days, having announced its withdrawal from the Canadian market.

Toyota: A-
Toyota was the turnaround story of last year but seems to be facing some headwinds in 2013. Sales are down just slightly (-1.1 per cent) but share has slipped back by a substantial 0.34 per cent — the second-greatest share loss of all automakers. That said, there’s a new RAV4 on the ground, the high-volume Corolla is holding its own against newer competition and there’s a brand-new Corolla ready to launch, so Toyota looks well-positioned to make some gains.

Volkswagen: A+
Volkswagen seems to be firing on all cylinders. Sales are up 8.5 per cent from last year and 34.3 per cent from their five-year average, and those gains enabled a significant 0.24 per cent increase in market share. The new Jetta Turbocharged Hybrid is winning critical acclaim and customers and an all-new Golf is waiting in the wings. So the future continues to look bright for VW.

Volvo: C-
Volvo’s sagging sales have fallen further in 2013, by 25.8 per cent, and the brand has given up another 0.11 per cent in market share. The S60 and XC60 are getting a significant facelift for 2014, which might help things a bit, but there’s no big new product in the pipeline. So don’t expect things to change much for the balance of the year.

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