TRUCKS ARE WHAT MAKE MOST OF CANADA’S 10 MOST POPULAR AUTOMAKERS SUCCESSFUL
If you’re an automaker, the keys to sales success are pickups, crossovers and SUVs
Even with a noticeable decline in the number of pickups being sold in 2018, trucks remain big business in Canada. In fact, from a market share perspective, pickups remain more popular in Canada than south of the border. Pickups account for 20 per cent of Canadian auto sales, and 19 per cent in the U.S.
Yet as pickup truck momentum slows in Canada, minivan popularity craters, and passenger-car volume quickly shrinks, huge increases in SUV/crossover demand have stopped the Canadian automobile market from collapsing in 2018.
Total vehicle sales through the first 10 months of 2018 were down just two per cent, a marginal decrease made more tolerable by a nine per cent improvement in SUV/crossover volume. That SUV increase includes nearly 29,000 sales — roughly four per cent of total utility vehicle demand — from newly launched nameplates such as the Hyundai Kona, Subaru Ascent and Volvo XC40.
However, for many automakers, gaining any benefit from Canada’s large pickup truck category is virtually impossible. The bulk of the pickup market is controlled by only a trio of manufacturers, but benefiting from the surge in utility vehicle demand is nevertheless something manufacturers of every stripe can accomplish. Preconceived notions of what a car-focused automaker stands for appear to have no impact on an automaker’s ability to succeed with SUVs, which goes a long way to explaining Porsche Canada’s 66-per cent SUV take rate.
An examination of Canada’s top automakers reveals a fair number of marques with bestsellers from the light truck side of the ledger, including four brands with chart-topping trucks, three more with chart-topping utility vehicles, and a trio that still have cars as their leaders.
You know it as the best-selling line of pickups in Canada. Ford’s F-Series will also end 2018 as the best-selling vehicle line for a 10th consecutive year. So it goes without saying that the F-Series is the top-selling vehicle in the Ford family. Half of Ford-brand sales in Canada during the first 10 months of 2018 — 126,662 of 253,657 — have come from the F-Series lineup. Ford’s next-best-selling vehicle is the Escape.
It’s not the Camry. It’s not the Corolla. The Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling Toyota in Canada, and that fact may well become all the more solidified with the all-new RAV4 launching soon for the 2019 model year. Toyota sold 46,630 RAV4s in the first 10 months of 2018, more than a quarter of the brand’s total output, compared with 42,198 Corollas.
Honda’s venerable Civic will end 2018 as Canada’s best-selling car for a 21st consecutive year. Yet the gap between the Civic and Honda’s CR-V, presently Canada’s top-selling SUV/crossover, is narrowing. The Civic outsells the CR-V at a 1.3-to-1 rate. That’s down from a 3.5to-1 ratio a decade ago and a 1.7-to-1 margin only three years ago.
The Bow tie brand includes one of the widest varieties of vehicles of any brand competing in Canada, but predictably, it’s a pickup truck that takes top honours at Chevrolet. Besides the Silverado, it markets a pure EV, a plug-in hybrid, two high-performance cars, two truck lines, commercial vans, five other passenger cars, a pair of full-size SUVs and three other utility vehicles. But the Silverado accounts for just over one-third of Chevrolet sales. That’s 49,039 of the 145,987 Chevys sold so far this year in Canada.
Not only is Nissan’s top seller a utility vehicle, so too is the brand’s second-best-selling vehicle. And Nissan’s third-ranked seller as well. The Rogue leads the way with 35,702 of Nissan’s 117,574 year-to-date sales, while the Qashqai and Murano account for a further 24 per cent of the brand’s volume. On its own, the Rogue outsells Nissan’s entire passenger car division.
Only a few of Canada’s 10 top-selling brands report sales figures with cars at the top of the leaderboard. One of them is Hyundai, where the Elantra (36,888 year-to-date sales) is quickly losing its advantage. Five years ago, the Elantra was at its peak, producing 40 per cent of volume. That’s now 33 per cent, as Hyundai’s demand decreases have fortunately been met by a diversified portfolio. The Tucson and Kona, for example, now combine to produce more volume for Hyundai than the Elantra.
Although not as vital a component in the GMC family as it was a year ago, the launch of a new Sierra for 2019 could once again show how Sierra-centric the GMC brand is. Six out of every 10 GMC customers choose a Sierra. The nextbest-selling GMC is the Terrain crossover, which earns only 14 per cent of the brand’s volume. One thing’s for sure: GMC’s top seller won’t be a car, because General Motors only markets cars under the Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac banners.
Ram: Pickup truck
It won’t be a car, and it won’t be an SUV. The Ram brand is essentially the Ram pickup brand; commercial vans bring only one-in-20 buyers. Ram truck sales have slowed this year, falling to a still-high 74,430 units. Only the Ford F-Series trucks create more volume. The Ram brand and the truck are down 14 per cent, year over year.
Although many months have seen Mazda’s core crossover, the CX-5, leading the way, the Mazda3 is the brand’s leader over the course of 2018’s first 10 months. 23,378 Mazda3s have been sold so far this year, scarcely more than the 22,947 CX-5s sold. Together, the duo accounts for more than 70 per cent of Mazda Canada’s volume. Trends suggest the CX-5 will take control in Mazda showrooms soon. Since 2014, Mazda3 volume is down 35 per cent, and CX-5 sales are up 35 per cent.
Naturally, Jeep’s best-selling vehicle is, in fact, an SUV. Jeep doesn’t (yet) sell a pickup truck, nor does Jeep market any cars. It is worth noting that Jeep’s bestseller, the Wrangler, is a genuine, bodyon-frame, off-roadable 4x4. Over 35 per cent of the 63,543 Jeeps sold so far in 2018 have been Wranglers. Already, with two months of sales data yet to be filed, 2018 is the Wrangler’s best year of Canadian sales, with 22,491 sold in the first 10 months of the year.
2018 Ford F-150.
2018 Nissan Rogue.