Canadian car sales down 15 per cent from year ago, but glimmers of hope seen

TORONTO — Automakers continue slithering through a hellish market but the latest Canadian sales numbers offer hope that the agony is abating, and they restore General Motors to its traditional industry leadership.

TORONTO — Automakers continue slithering through a hellish market but the latest Canadian sales numbers offer hope that the agony is abating, and they restore General Motors to its traditional industry leadership.

Total sales were down 15 per cent nationally last month compared with March 2008, according to a tally released Wednesday by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

Analyst Dennis DesRosiers observed that this is negative but nevertheless “is a significant improvement from the last few months when sales were down in the mid-20 per cent range.”

And compared with February’s abysmal results, last month’s sales were higher by 59 per cent. Car dealers normally start to get busier seasonally in March, but not usually by nearly that much.

Also on the bright side, DesRosiers noted that automakers say their low-profit sales to rental companies and other fleets were down 30 to 40 per cent from a year ago, “which would mean that retail consumer sales were likely down only in the single-digit range.”

DesRosiers counted March sales of cars, pickups, minivans and SUVs at 127,489, down from 150,024 in March 2008.

General Motors of Canada, one of the two North American carmakers seeking billions of dollars in aid from the federal and Ontario governments, saw its sales fall by 17.6 per cent. That was good enough to return GM to its usual position as the industry sales leader, after Chrysler Canada had briefly usurped this status in February, dropping GM to No. 2 for the first month since at least the early 1950s.

Chrysler, also pleading for taxpayer help to survive, skidded hardest last month among the Detroit Three with a year-over-year decline of 26.6 per cent.

“Dealers tell me that the buying public reacted very poorly to the threat to leave Canada and this likely cost Chrysler some volume,” DesRosiers commented. He was referring to a statement by Chrysler president Tom LaSorda on March 11 that the automaker might shut its Canadian plants unless it can slash labour costs, settle a tax dispute and get a US$2.3-billion loan from Ottawa.

But Chrysler also found hope in the monthly data, noting that its sales were up 33 per cent from February and the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan had its strongest-ever March with 3,775 sales, up four per cent from March 2008.

Ford of Canada matched the general market slide with a 15.1 per cent year-over-year decline.

The numbers were much better in Canada than in the United States, where March sales were down 45 per cent for GM, 41 per cent at Ford and 39 per cent for Chrysler. However, those American sales were also up markedly from February’s 27-year-plus low.

Overall, GM Canada delivered 24,867 vehicles in March, followed by Ford at 17,021; Toyota including Lexus, down 23 per cent to 15,901; Chrysler at 15,846; and Honda including Acura, down 22.8 per cent at 12,570.

Next came Hyundai with a year-over-year sales gain of 25.5 per cent to 8,818, while South Korean stablemate Kia added 12.6 per cent to 3,555.

DesRosiers attributed Hyundai’s rise to “value pricing, good product and some smart marketing.” But the sales tally coincided with a new call from Canadian Auto Workers president Ken Lewenza for governments to force offshore automakers to build more cars here and require Asian markets to ease exports from North America.

DesRosiers commented that the Detroit Three “collectively lost market share again in March which is a continuation of a 15-year trend so this is no surprise.”

Notable in last month’s data was strength in high-priced German brands: Mercedes-Benz sales were up 26 per cent from a year ago at 2,181, BMW rose eight per cent to 1,711, Audi added 25 per cent to 979 and Porsche gained 10 per cent to 172.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rocky Mountain House RCMP are investigating a fatal collision involving a pedestrian on Feb. 27. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Rocky Mountain House RCMP investigate fatal pedestrian collision

Collision occured west of Rocky on Highway 11A

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

March will be dramatically warmer through the prairies

Bharat Masrani, CEO, TD Bank Group speaks at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto on Wednesday, November 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

Shares in metals and mining companies have rebounded sharply

A worker carrying a disinfectant sprayer walks past a WestJet Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft, after cleaning another plane at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, January 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
WestJet to lay off undisclosed number of pilots amid labour negotiations

Layoff notices to go out ahead of the expiration of a memorandum of agreement

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

Canada has ordered 24 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

A ” Justice for Jeff” T-shirt. (Photo submitted)
Rally to be held outside Red Deer courthouse for slain Ponoka man

Sentencing for accused charged with manslaughter with a firearm set for March 4

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson makes a shot against Team Alberta as second Shannon Birchard, right, and lead Briane Meilleur sweep in the semi-final at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Kerri Einarson wins second straight Canadian women’s curling championship

Einarson and her teammates celebrated Sunday in the silence in an empty arena

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hosted the Golden Globes on Feb. 28, 2021. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
With loved ones and pets, Globes winners embrace cozier show

Nicole Kidman and musician-husband Keith Urban got glammed up to sit on their couch

The cast of “Schitt’s Creek” pose for a photo after winning the Award for Best Comedy Series at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on March 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Schitt’s Creek nabs two Golden Globes for its final season

Catherine O’Hara named best television actress in a musical or comedy

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?

OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election… Continue reading

Most Read