The nay-sayers were proven wrong in January. Most of the media has been on an “the end of the record vehicles sales run in Canada is here” script for the last couple of months and indeed December sales were down which gave the naysayers a lot of room to express their view.
January, however, was the exact opposite with sales up 9.6 in 2016 versus 2015 which is still short of the all-time record set in 2002 (110,266 units). This represented a SAAR of 1.94 million units. Eleven different brands also saw double digit growth and only four brands saw declines.
Honda was the growth leader with an increase of 36.8 percent. Also of note was General Motors which was one of the best players during 2015 and remained on a roll in January with a sales increase of 24.3 percent. Ford was the laggard within the Detroit brands last year but rebounded in January with a 14.1 percent increase. FCA held the sales title in January with 18K sales but they increased only 0.6 percent. We have said that this year any of the Detroit three could take the sales title and January reinforced that point of view.
The Korean players are still struggling with sales down at Hyundai (down 3.8 percent) and at Kia (down 2.8 percent). Volkswagen is beginning to see the negative impact on their ‘defeat software’ issue with sales down by 17.6 percent. Some of this was because their sales were so healthy a year ago but some has to be related to decision to no longer sell diesel vehicles. Their sister company Audi, however, saw sales up by 7.1 percent so the contagion hasn’t spread to their luxury brands.
Luxury brands were almost universally up with increases at Land Rover (up 31.6 percent), Infiniti (up 22.5 percent), Mercedes Benz (up 17.6 percent), Porsche (up 13.6 percent), Volvo (up 9.5 percent), BMW (up 9.2 percent) and Lexus (up 0.1 percent).
As much as sales were extremely positive we also do not like to read too much into the early months of any particular year. There is a lot of ‘gaming’ of sales numbers at the end of the year that can skew January sales, it is the lowest sales month each year and weather can cause havoc in the market. A lot more water has to flow under this bridge before we can be assured these sales levels will be maintained. We remain optimistic for 2016 that sales will reach the levels achieved in 2015 but our conviction is the lowest in a number of years.