Auto sales shrank last month

September auto sales shrunk by only 3.5 per cent compared to a year ago, a much smaller decline than recent months as sales incentives and a general improvement in the economic climate provided a boost.

TORONTO — September auto sales shrunk by only 3.5 per cent compared to a year ago, a much smaller decline than recent months as sales incentives and a general improvement in the economic climate provided a boost.

Ford and Hyundai emerged as the two clear winners among the major automakers, while General Motors, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota continued to see their sales shrink.

According to data compiled by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, Ford Canada’s September sales increased by 24.4 per cent compared to a year earlier to 16,140. The company maintained its second-place position, claiming 15.4 per cent of the Canadian market.

September was also the fourth month in a row that Ford, the only one of the Detroit Three automakers to survive the economic downturn without a government bailout, has increased its Canadian sales year over year, the company said.

“We continue to deliver strong new products, particularly our cars. In fact, nearly 70 per cent of sales come from our new models,” stated Ford Canada president and CEO David Mondragon. “We are encouraged by the continued momentum in the market.”

Mondragon added that Ford’s scrappage incentive program — which joined similar programs from Hyundai, Chrysler, General Motors and Volkswagen to offer rebates to customers who traded in old vehicles for new models — helped to boost sales.

Auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers said he thinks Ford’s strong product mix has been a major factor in its recent success.

“Ford has a strong product cadence and this is certainly helping them move a lot of product,” DesRosiers wrote in a commentary.

“A lesson here as well: GM and Chrysler are much maligned these days but as Ford has clearly shown, if you get your product right then it is possible to turn around market-share losses and actually grow market share.”

General Motors held onto its first-place ranking with 17.7 per cent of market share, although its sales fell 23.4 per cent to 23,568 compared to September 2008.

“We are very pleased with the strong retail sales performance of GM’s four core brands: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC with sales of these core brands up 5.6 per cent over the same time period last year,” stated Marc Comeau, GM Canada’s vice-president of sales, service and marketing.

Chrysler Canada’s decrease was much smaller than its bailout partner, down 7.1 per cent to 15,804. The company grabbed 10.9 per cent of the Canadian market to put it in fourth place.

“You can’t sell off of an empty wagon — we were finally able to replenish our depleted vehicle inventory levels, and it showed in our September results,” stated Chrysler Canada president and CEO Reid Bigland.

Among the Asian automakers, Korean company Hyundai emerged as the clear winner, with sales that DesRosiers described as being “in the stratosphere” — up 30.8 per cent to 9,282. The company came sixth in terms of market share, claiming 7.3 per cent of September sales.

Hyundai said September marked its ninth consecutive month of sales increases. To date, the company said 2009 has been its best year of sales on record.

Toyota Canada’s September sales were down 11.1 per cent to 16,065 despite a best-ever September for Toyota trucks, which sold 5,626 units, up 16.4 per cent. The company came in third place with 12.5 per cent of market share.

Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand sold 1,504 vehicles, up 11.3 per cent.

Honda Canada’s September sales fell 12.2 per cent to 11,272, putting it in fifth place with 8.4 per cent of market share. Honda’s Acura division sold 1,127 units, down 45 per cent.

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