Spring auto sales fail to blossom in Canada

It’s spring, the season when new-vehicle sales typically ascend toward their May crescendo, the apogee of the annual sales chart. But it is not happening this year, just as it didn’t happen last year.

In fact, April 2022 sales of 140,785 units were down a further 13.3 per cent from the same month a year ago, based on DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC) estimates. And that figure is fully 24.0% below April 2019’s result, the last comparable “normal” month, before the pandemic and supply-shortages comprehensively distorted any semblance of market normality.

Cumulative year-to-date sales of 471,378 units through April 2022 were down by 12.9% from 2021, and by 21.9% from 2019. They were even down 3.4% from 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak.

While the direct pandemic impact now seems to be mostly behind us, the ensuing microchip shortage and other supply-side issues, including the war in Ukraine, are not, and they continue to wreak havoc on production capabilities world-wide.

Emphasizing the severity of their impact, the April 2022 SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Sales Rate) was just 1.44 million units, according to DAC—the lowest rate since May of 2020, during the initial pandemic response.

This sales shortfall is in a market with demand “at, or above, two million units,” according to DAC, but with “supply side woes that show few short-term signs of ameliorating.”

Winners and losers

Given the widespread supply-side constraints and their effects on production, sales numbers for any manufacturer continue to more likely reflect product availability than market demand alone.

Of those automakers reporting April results, Genesis continued to lead the pack in terms of percentage gain, up 111.6% from a year ago, and 60.5% for the year to date.

Volvo was the only other brand to make an absolute gain with sales up 2.5% from April 2021.

Hyundai (-0.9%), Lexus (-6.3%) and Mazda (-13.2%) also outperformed the market average.

Acura (-38.5%), reported the greatest year-over-year decline for the month, followed by Subaru (-33.5%), Honda (-31.1%), Kia (-20.7%) and Toyota (-14.4%) reporting lesser losses.

Given that many automakers continue to report sales only quarterly rather than monthly, a complete breakdown of results by manufacturer will be available after the second quarter.

About Gerry Malloy

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

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