According to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, March new vehicle sales as reported by vehicle distributors were up slightly (1.9 percent) to record an all-time best March in the history of the Canadian industry. Sales year to date are up 2.7 percent so the concerns about Alberta dragging down the entire vehicle market in Canada are so far unfounded. Provincial sales will be released later in the month.
The automotive market is product driven, and the three companies that had the greatest gains for the month all benefitted from availability of new and exciting product. Volkswagen posted a remarkable 72.6 percent gain to 6,950 units as the Golf and GTI hit dealerships in full force. Porsche (with its Macan) was up 45.6% to 485 units, and MINI (new 3/5 door Cooper) gained 26.4% to 465 units.
FCA maintained its overall market lead, although with a sales gain of 1.7% it underperformed the market. A number of large distributors posted slight sales declines for the month including Toyota (-5.1 percent), Ford (-4.6 percent), GM (-3.5 percent) and Honda (-2.6 percent). It is not often the market sees these four players decline, but still manages an overall gain. Truck sales (+ 5.4 percent) continued to outperform passenger cars (-2.9 percent) during March.
While the market is off to a positive start for the year, we do caution that at this time of year, a number of sales approaches employed by vehicle distributors may result in over-estimating the actual retail marketplace. January to March are three of the slowest months of the year for new vehicle sales and because volumes are so low these sales tactics can impact actual market performance, especially at a brand level. We will wait to see how the market develops in the key spring selling season.