If you’re an au­tomaker, the keys to sales suc­cess are pick­ups, crossovers and SUVs

Calgary Sun - Autonet - - DRIVING.CA - Tim Cain Driv­ing.Ca

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.

Ford: Pickup

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.

Toy­ota: SUV/cross­over

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: Car

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.

Chevro­let: Pickup

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.

Nis­san: SUV/cross­over

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.

Hyundai: Car

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.

GMC: Pickup

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.

Mazda: Car

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.

Jeep: SUV

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.

Ford photo

2018 Ford F-150.

Nis­saN photo

2018 Nis­san Rogue.

Mazda photo

2018 Mazda3.

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