September sales set yet another record

The boom times just keep on rolling. September sales of 186,837 new cars, trucks and SUVs in Canada were up 7.7% from a year ago, setting yet another monthly record — the eighth this year. Only in April did sales fail to surpass those from a year earlier.

Even more impressive, September sales were 15.6% ahead of the five-year historical average for the month, according to David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC).

Cumulative sales of 1,591,684 vehicles through the first three quarters are 5.3% ahead of last year’s record pace and solidly on track for a fifth consecutive record sales year.

Not only is another annual record in sight, so is the milestone two-million-unit sales figure. Fourth-quarter sales need to reach just 409,000 units to hit that magic mark, according to Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC). “Given that the fourth quarter of 2016 saw sales of 440,715, a two-million market is now comfortably within reach,” he said.

“It was not that many years ago when 1.59-million in sales represented a good year for total annual sales, let alone for sales through the end of the third quarter,” observed Adams. “Consumer demand and the market continue to impress,” he added.

Reinforcing that impression, September’s SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized sales Rate) surpassed the 2.0-million mark for the fifth consecutive month, hitting an all-time high of about 2.25-million, according to DAC.

Ford back on top

Ford regained the top spot in monthly sales for September with 30,881 vehicles sold — up 2.4% from the same month a year ago — handily maintaining its year-to-date lead with 246,105 sales, up 3.1% from a year ago.

General Motors’ 27,237 sales in September fell short of Ford’s, although they were up 7.0% from 2016. GM’s ear-to-date sales of 232,566 new vehicles are up 16.6% from a year ago, but still almost 14,000 short of Ford’s, virtually ensuring the Blue Oval’s lock on first place for the year.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles bucked the almost universally positive trend in September with sales down by 6.1% from last year, pulling FCA’s year-to-date decline further down to -2.4%.

While the Detroit Three collectively maintained the same 43.5% market share they held at this time last year, GM picked up 1.4% of share (to 14.6%) at the expense of FCA (-1.1% to 13.4%) and Ford (-0.3% to 15.5%).

Toyota had a strong month in fourth-place, with sales up by 14.9%, helping push year-to-date sales up by 2.4%, although its 9.8% market share is down 0.3% from a year ago in a stronger overall market.

Honda, in fifth-place, lagged the market with just a 3.4% sales increase in September, but with YTD sales up 10.2% it maintained its 8.8% market share, up 0.4% from last year.

Nissan and Hyundai continued in a tight race for sixth with the Japanese brand prevailing on a 14.4% sales increase for the month. Hyundai (+2.6%) was about 250 units behind, letting Nissan stretch its year-to-date lead with a 9.5% gain, compared to an 8.1% decline for the Korean brand.

After being surpassed by Volkswagen in August, Kia (+19.4%) reclaimed eighth place in September. But VW wasn’t far behind with a formidable 50.5% sales increase from a year earlier – the greatest of any brand in percentage terms.

That Volkswagen sales surge pushed Mazda (+14.4%) back to tenth place for the second consecutive month, although both Kia (+6.5%) and Mazda (+8.1%) remain ahead of VW (+10.7%) in the year-to-date rankings.

Subaru (+11.5%) maintained 11th place, ahead of Mercedes-Benz (+12.9%), for both the month and year-to-date.

Winners and losers

September’s market strength was broadly based as only two automakers – FCA (-6.1%) and Smart (-91.8%) – failed to improve on their 2016 figures for the month.

In percentage terms, Volkswagen (+50.5%) made the greatest gain, almost matching Toyota’s industry-leading 2,543-vehicle increase in absolute numbers.

Jaguar (+32.3%), Maserati (24.1%) and Volvo (+21.4) also posted significant gains.

Truck sales, including SUVs, increased by 12.5% with 129,731 units sold in September while passenger car sales declined by 1.8% with 57,106 units sold. Dennis DesRosiers noted that, “every single month in 2017 thus far has been a record sales month for light trucks while passenger car sales have remained below record levels that were set as far back as the late 1980’s.”

Truck market share advanced further to 67.7%, year-to-date, while that for passenger cars continued its decline to just 32.3%.

The Ford’s F-Series continued to be the best-selling truck and the best-selling vehicle overall – with its best-selling month on record – and 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.]

About Gerry Malloy

Gerry Malloy is one of Canada's best known, award-winning automotive journalists.

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