April sales down slightly

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After three consecutive months of record sales to kick off the year, the pace slacked off in April, but not by much. Sales of 197,203 new cars, trucks and SUVs were down 1.6% from March 2016’s record tally, but still the second-highest ever for the month.

In addition, April sales were almost 10% ahead of the five-year average for the month, according to David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC) — not a bad result at all.

Reinforcing that point, the SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Sales Rate) for April was 1.99 million, according to Dennis DesRosiers, of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC). That makes it the fourth month in a row with the SAAR in the 2-million range, the most consistent four-month period in several years.

Cumulative sales of 618,721 vehicles year-to-date continue to be the highest ever for the period, 2.5% ahead of last year’s record pace.

Despite this extremely strong start, the consensus of industry analysts seems to be that 2017 won’t set a fourth consecutive annual sales record – although it could well be the second-best year ever.

“For most of the rest of the year there are some very tough comparables (previous year’s sales were very high),” says Dennis DesRosiers. “So we expect this will continue and that by the end of the year sales will actually be down slightly versus 2016.”

“We’re not expecting a free fall … only continued softness,” he added.

Tight race at the top

Continuing the trend of the first three months, the sales race remains tight at the top of the charts with General Motors claiming the top spot for the second month in a row. GM’s sales of 30.948 vehicles were up 16.4% from the same month last year.

Ford was fewer than 600 vehicles behind with 30,385 sales – up 0.2% – to take second place. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the sales leader through the first two months, dropped back to third with 27,373 vehicles sold, down 9.1% from last April.

The net result of all that shuffling is that Ford (+1.4%) is now in first place year-to-date, with GM (+13.4%) in second and FCA (-1.6%) in third. Still, all three are separated by fewer than 1600 vehicle sales so it remains anybody’s game.

In terms of market share, Ford now claims 15.0% (-0.2%), followed by GM at 14.9% (+1.4%) and FCA at 14.8% (-0.6%).

Honda makes big gains

Toyota remains firmly in fourth place, despite a sales decline of 9.9% in April and 5.0% year-to-date. Meanwhile, Honda (+5.9% in April and +9.0% YTD) has made big gains in fifth – although the two are still about 6,000 units apart. Honda’s market share has increased by 0.8% to 8.7%, while Toyota’s has dropped 0.6% to 9.6%.

Hyundai (-0.3%) regained sixth place from Nissan (-8.1%) for the month, although the Japanese brand retains the position year-to-date.

Kia (-6.5%) re-passed Mazda (-9.3%) for eighth in April, although that order is also reversed year-to-date. And Subaru (+8.6%) outpaced Volkswagen (-30.1%) for tenth, pushing Mercedes-Benz (+3.8%) back to 12th for the month. Year-to-date, however that order is ranked Mercedes-Benz/Subaru/Volkswagen. Tight races throughout the field, indeed.

In percentage terms, the big gainers in March were Jaguar (+157.4%) and Maserati (+112.3%), while the losers were led by Smart (-60.0%), Volkswagen (-30.1%) and Acura (-23.3%).

Continuing the long-standing trend, truck sales, including SUVs, were up 2.5% from April 2016, accounting for 68.0% of the market year-to-date, while passenger car sales fell by 8.7%.

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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