Canadian auto sales tumble from last year, some stability is being seen

Canadian sales of cars and light trucks in May were down 16.5 per cent compared with a year ago but it appears that the industry is beginning to see some stability, according to a tally Tuesday by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

TORONTO — Canadian sales of cars and light trucks in May were down 16.5 per cent compared with a year ago but it appears that the industry is beginning to see some stability, according to a tally Tuesday by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

Overall, light vehicle sales slipped to 154,018, down from 184,467 a year ago.

Auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers noted it was the seventh month in a row when sales have trailed the year ago mark.

“This is not good, but when you translate these sales numbers into a seasonally adjusted annual rates, the data shows a stabilization of sales in Canada at about 1.45 million units,” DesRosiers wrote in a commentary.

“Indeed a quick call around the industry indicates that a number of companies are running relatively low on inventory and wish they had pre-ordered more vehicles for this year.”

Vehicle sales at General Motors of Canada (NYSE:GM) fell 12.4 per cent in May to 31,784, but the restructuring auto giant said Tuesday it saw a 6.3 uptick in the numbers it sold compared to the prior month.

The automaker said its Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent models recorded their best sales month ever, up 94 per cent.

At Chrysler, another of the major North American automakers currently restructuring under bankruptcy protection in the U.S., sales fell 50 per cent to 13,593, according to DesRosiers.

“This obviously hurt availability of product and cast an incredibly negative pall over Chrysler,” DesRosiers said.

DesRosiers also said Ford (NYSE:F), the only one of the Detroit Three not currently operating under creditor protection in the U.S., saw its May sales fall 7.2 per cent to 21,873.

Toyota said its overall sales were 21,316, down 25.2 per cent from May 2008, including 1,587 of its high-end Lexus vehicles, which was down 13 per cent.

The Japanese automaker said its RAV4 sport utility vehicle recorded its best ever month with 2,741 sold, up 16.4 per cent.

Honda Canada reported combined May sales of 15,624 units by its Honda and Acura divisions, down 17 per cent from May 2008.

Of those sales, 14,046 were under the Honda banner, down 17 year-over-year, and 1,578 were in the luxury Acura division, down 21 per cent from last year.

Mercedes-Benz reported 2,344 sales, up 6.9 per cent over May 2008 sales.