Strong March auto sales continue good year

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Abnormally wintry weather across Canada in March did nothing to cool down the record pace of new-vehicle sales that has so far typified 2017. With 187,540 new cars, trucks and SUVs sold, fully 7.1% more than in March 2016, last month marks the third consecutive month of record sales volumes — this is made all the more remarkable, given that sales in the U.S. have declined throughout the same period.

“Some good economic news, consumer confidence at its highest level since January 2010, and continued low borrowing rates have sustained the run of record monthly auto sales,” said David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC).

With 421,518 sales through the first quarter, it’s the best start to any year — ever. March’s sales record is 4.6% ahead of last year’s record-setting pace and 16.2% ahead of the five-year average for the period, according to Adams.

“It remains to be seen whether this trajectory will continue throughout the first half and the remainder of the year,” said Adams, “but it is a nice way to end the first quarter!”

Dennis DesRosiers, of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAD), labeled it “another stunningly successful month,” noting that the March SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Sales Rate) was $2.02 million.

GM tops the sales charts

These first three months of 2017 have witnessed the tightest sales race to the top of the charts in years, with the strongest three competitors all within 3,000 vehicles of each other.

General Motors was the clear leader for March, with 30,115 units sold — an increase of 22.9% from the same month last year.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the sales leader through the first two months, claimed second place for March with 26,531 sales, up 2.6% from last year, while Ford, up 0.2%, was just 51 vehicles behind at 26,480.

Year-to-date, FCA’s and Ford’s sales are both up 2.0%, while GM sales have climbed 12.1%, resulting in share losses of 0.4% for both FCA and Ford and a gain of 0.9% for GM.

With a sales gain of 18.7% to 17,392 vehicles, Honda edged past Toyota to claim fourth place for the month. Toyota’s 17,282 sales in March (+0.1%) leave the traditional Japanese-brand sales leader down 2.5% year-to-date, which equates to a market share loss of 0.7% — the largest in the industry — though Toyota maintains fourth place YTD.

Nissan (+26.7%) has now conclusively displaced Hyundai (-14.7%) in sixth place, both for the month and the year-to-date. Mazda (+14.8%), Kia (+6.1%) and Mercedes-Benz (+11.9%) completed the top ten for March, with Subaru (+10.4%) fewer than 100 vehicles back in 11th place; all four hold the same positions year-to-date. Volkswagen (-22.4%), traditionally a solid member of the top ten, has fallen back to 12th place in both measures.

Apart from GM and Nissan, the other big gainers in March, in percentage terms, were Jaguar (+227.2%) and Maserati (+197.6%). On the flip-side, Smart (-83.7%) was the major loser.

Truck sales, including SUVs, were up 11.1% from March 2016, accounting for 68.7% of the market year-to-date, while passenger car sales fell by 0.3%.

Ford’s F-Series continued to be the best-selling truck and the best-selling vehicle overall, while the Honda Civic was the best-selling passenger car.

[NOTE: Data quoted in this report were sourced from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, Global Automakers of Canada and individual automakers.]

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