Incentives propel auto makers to higher sales

Four of the top five automakers increased Canadian sales in December compared with a year ago, while Toyota was the exception as it saw sales nearly cut in half.

TORONTO — Four of the top five automakers increased Canadian sales in December compared with a year ago, while Toyota was the exception as it saw sales nearly cut in half.

Auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers noted that Toyota offered fewer incentives than as its competitors, despite losing its image of reliability due to several recalls and that hurt sales.

“I have never seen the level of incentives available to consumers during 2010 in my 40-plus years analyzing the market,” DesRosiers said.

“When they owned the ‘best quality’ title they didn’t have to play the incentive game to the degree other (automakers) had to use them . . . Toyota’s stubbornness cost them dearly this year.”

Total vehicle sales at Toyota dropped from 16,472 in December 2009, to 8,842 last month, according to DesRosiers.

Data compiled by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants reported a total of 111,024 cars and light trucks were sold in December, virtually unchanged from the year before when 111,186 vehicles were sold.

Several automakers reported that their overall sales in Canada broke records last month, with Ford leading the way in growth with its best December sales in more than a decade.

Sales at Ford were up 8.6 per cent overall, as the company sold nearly 20,000 vehicles in total last month, the vast majority being F-Series trucks.

The December sales amount to a 17 per cent jump in cars to 4,118, while trucks were up 6.6 per cent to 15,359.

The numbers topped off a good year for the company, which was the only one of the three Detroit automakers to make it through the recession without a government bailout.

“Sales titles are nice to have but we remain focused on building long-term, sustainable, profitable growth,” David Mondragon, president and CEO of Ford Canada said in a statement, adding that Ford is well-positioned by providing a range of cars, SUVs, and trucks.

Chrysler Canada reported that it sold 14,407 vehicles, an increase of four per cent compared with last December.

Car sales were down at Chrysler Canada, but truck sales turned the slump into a 4.2 per cent increase overall. Dodge Rams and Jeep Grand Cherokee sales led the way.

At General Motors, car and truck sales of its core brands — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac — totalled 20,160, including fleet sales, up from 17 per cent from 17,243 a year ago.

Trucks sales counted for 14,740 of that total, up from 12,679 a year ago, while GM sold 5,420 cars, up from 4,564 in December 2009.

Honda Canada said sales in its Odyssey minivan and Acura TSX compact luxury car both doubled, with record sales of Fit, up 10 per cent. The company saw a total four per cent increase in sales in both divisions, versus December 2009.

Honda acknowledged a slow start to sales at the beginning of 2010 that picked up by the fourth quarter.

“We are seeing consumer confidence steadily improving and we expect this to continue into the first quarter of 2011 and beyond,” Jerry Chenkin, executive vice-president of Honda Canada, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Mazda Canada said it broke a December sales record in 2010 by selling more than 5,200 vehicles— a 22 per cent increase compared with the same month last year.

It said it sold more Mazda2 subcompacts and CX-7 crossovers in December than any other month in the year.

Subaru said it also saw a record December across all its models, with 2,300 vehicles sold— a 20.7 increase over last year due to sales of Outback crossovers that beat a record set 10 years ago.

Korean automaker Kia sold about 3,000 vehicles last year, as sales shot up 14.9 per cent.

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