August auto sales maintain record-breaking momentum

While auto sales south of the border are experiencing a downturn that goes beyond the recent effects of Hurricane Harvey, here in Canada they’re maintaining the record-breaking pace that has characterized most of 2017.

August was the fourth consecutive month and the seventh this year to set an all-time record for the respective month, with sales of 183,945 new cars, trucks and utility vehicles up 6.9% from August 2016. According Global Automakers of Canada (GAC) August sales were fully 10% ahead of the five-year historical average for the month.

Year-to-date sales of 1,404,847 new vehicles in Canada through August are up 5.3% and ahead more than 70,000 units compared to last year’s record-setting pace for the period.

“Too often a strong percentage increase is off a weak year ago number, but this was not the case in August,” observed Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC), for the second half of last year was “very strong.”

Confirming the consistent strength of the current market, August’s SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized sales Rate) exceeded 2.0-million for the fourth consecutive month, according to DAC.

“Unless we hit some unexpected economic turbulence, it seems reasonable that Canada will achieve another new sales record in 2017,” concluded David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC).

“We have a shot at hitting the two-million mark for the first time,” added Dennis DesRosiers, although he noted that reaching that milestone is far from guaranteed.

GM regains top sales spot

As it did in March and April, General Motors claimed the top sales spot in August with sales of 28,981 units up 28.5% from a year ago. That surge pushed year-to-date sales to 205,329, up 18.0% from 2016, but GM still trails Ford by about 1,700 vehicles in the YTD totals.

While it maintained its year-to-date lead, with cumulative sales up by 3.2%, Ford’s 27,286 August sales were down 5.9% from the same month last year. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles fared even worse, with August sales down 9.2%, pulling its YTD comparison down to -2.0%.

In terms of year-to-date market share, GM gained 1.6%, to 14.6%, while Ford’s was down by 0.3% to 15.3% and FCA by 1.0% to 13.9%.

Back in fourth-place, Toyota more than matched the market pace in August with sales up by 7.7%, pulling year-to-date sales into positive territory (+0.7%) and maintaining market share at 9.8%, down 0.4% from a year ago.

Fifth-place Honda’s sales were up 6.1% in August, barely lagging the market and hanging on to its 8.8% market share, up 0.5% from last year.

The tight race for sixth continued with Nissan (+13.8%) edging past Hyundai (-10.9%) by just 21 vehicles for the month. Year-to-date, the positions are the same with Nissan’s sales up by 8.9% and Hyundai’s down by 9.3%.

Volkswagen stormed back into eighth place in August with a 71.9% sales surge, leaving Kia (+15.0%) and Mazda (+7.5%) in ninth and tenth places, respectively, in spite of their positive showings. VW’s earlier woes still leave it behind both Kia (+4.8%) and Mazda (+7.2%) in the year-to-date rankings, however, with cumulative sales up 6.0% from a year ago.

Subaru (+9.7%) consolidated its hold on 11th place, ahead of luxury leader Mercedes-Benz (+13.4%), both for the month and year-to-date. Further down the luxury rankings, however, Audi (+26.8%) outsold BMW (+3.1%) for the month bringing it within 150 vehicles of overtaking the Bavarian brand year-to-date.

Winners and losers

In percentage terms, Maserati (+275.0%) made the greatest gain in August but Volkswagen’s 71.9% improvement and GM’s 28.5% surge were the most significant increases among mainstream brands. Audi (+26.8%) and Infiniti (+20.9%) also posted noteworthy gains.

The biggest losers for the month, compared to last August, were Smart (-91.1%), Acura (20.9%), and Hyundai (-10.9%).

Truck sales, including SUVs, continued to set the overall pace in August, up 10.1% from a year ago, but unlike many months, passenger car sales also increased, by 0.8%. Trucks’ market share continued its relentless advance, increased to 67.5%, year-to-date, leaving just 32.5% for passenger cars.

The Ford’s F-Series continued to be the best-selling truck and the best-selling vehicle overall, while the Honda Civic maintained its position as 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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