December sales proved to break a different type of record as new vehicle sales saw a year-over-year decline when compared against the previous year (128,874 units in 2015 versus 131,393 units in 2014). This represented a 1.9 percent decline over 2014 and was the first month to break a 32 month streak of consecutive YOY increases.
Despite the decrease in December sales light vehicle sales in Canada during 2015 hit a new record high for the third year in a row with sales of 1,898,485 units. The previous record was 1,851,373 units last year (2014).
As always there are trends that arise each year that are indicative of the environment for purchasing new vehicles.
First was the growth of light trucks (up 8.8 percent) which hit record levels for the seventh year in a row. Light trucks accounted for 62.3 percent of the market in 2015 (also a new record) with 1,182,766 units sold. Passenger car sales actually declined to 715,719 units; a drop of 6.3 percent.
Second, the luxury market reached a new record volume of sales and a new record market share. While luxury passenger cars saw a net increase over the previous year, luxury SUVs were the driving contributors for growth in 2015.
Compact sport utility/crossover vehicles were also the largest segment in the market beating the compact car segment for the first time.
SUVs as a whole have been the fastest growing segment in both the mainstream and luxury market.
Fifth, despite the significant slow-down in sales in Alberta, pick-up trucks also hit a new record level of sales.
FCA (formally Chrysler) led all OEMs with sales of 293,061 units (an all time sales record). Since Desrosiers first started tracking company level sales, this is the first time that FCA has held the title of best-selling vehicle company in Canada. For decades General Motors held the title, until 2010 when Ford over took GM and held the sales lead until 2015. Although FCA was the sales leader, General Motors saw the biggest increase within the three traditional Detroit based OEMs with sales up 5.4 percent. FCA sales were up only 1.1 percent and Ford’s sales were down by 4.6 percent.
Month in and month out these top three selling brands are now all within a thousand units of each other. Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura held the number four and five positions but both were significantly behind the three sales leaders.
Many brands achieved all time sales records in 2015… MINI up 31.0 percent, Porsche up 30.0 percent, Lexus up 25.4 percent, Land Rover up 22.9 percent, Mercedes Benz up 15.3 percent, Nissan up 12.8 percent, Subaru up 10.9 percent, Infiniti up 10.0 percent, Audi up 9.1 percent, Volkswagen up 7.1 percent, BMW up 6.7 percent and Honda up 2.4 percent.
There were many reasons for this record sales performance including:
Product, product and product … a dizzying array of new products jam packed with advanced technologies that consumers embraced
Nearly free money with very low interest rate levels
A record number of older vehicles on the road that need replacement… there are over 10 million vehicles on the road over 10 years old which represents close to 40 percent of all light vehicles registered … both figures are new highs.
Lower gas prices which lowered each vehicle owners cost
Solid growth in Ontario and Quebec which are Canada’s two largest vehicle markets … this growth was able to offset the decline in sales in Alberta which is Canada’s third largest market.
Growth in vehicle ownership as measured by vehicles per driving age population which reached a record 84.5 percent.
Solid growth in the driving age population
Leasing returned to north of 20 percent of financing and longer amortization of loans lowered monthly payments.
Sales to fleets (daily rental as well as corporate fleets) once again strong