If BMW's 3-Series hadn't enjoyed such a spectacular September, Hyundai's Elantra would have been the story of the latest Top 10 list of best selling vehicles in Canada. September sales of the 3-Series were up a stunning 51 per cent in September, and in doing so the 3 also outshone Toyota's Camry, the Mazda3 and the Chevrolet Cruze – all of which enjoyed sales gains of at least 35 per cent or more, year-on-year.
The mid-size Camry, and Elantra, Mazda3 and Cruze compact cars are mainstream models competing in the heart of the Canadian market and we all expect to see them among the top 10. Nearly one of every five cars purchased in Canada is a compact.
The 3-Series, on the other hand, is a luxury car and as DesRosiers Automotive Consultants reports in a note to clients, "luxury segments have traditionally been so small that it is difficult for any individual model to be a 'best seller' in competition with mass market vehicles" such as the Elantra, Camry, Mazda3 and Cruze. Not entirely unprecedented, however. DesRosiers notes the 3 appeared among the top 10 in December of 2010. More of the same could be coming.
"Luxury markets will be among the fastest growing segments this decade, so it is unsurprising to see the 3-Series ranking among Canada's top ten sellers," says DesRosiers in a note to clients.
This begs the question, what is a luxury car in 2012? If by definition "luxury" products are not mainstream, says DesRosiers, how can a car like the 3-Series be both a luxury car AND a mainstream car at the same time? Top 10 sellers are by definition mainstream cars.
"Can a brand sell in high volumes yet retain perceived exclusivity? Does that matter anymore?" asks DesRosiers.
Still, all this luxury banter should not undermine what's been happening with traditional mainstream cars. Sales among the best sellers are on fire. Consider:
· Elantra sales in September were up 40.5 per cent and are up 7.5 per cent on the year.
· Camry sales were up 68.9 per cent on the year and 37.8 per cent in September.
· Mazda3 sales were up 37.7 per cent in September and up 12.5 per cent on the year.
· Cruze sales were up 35.7 per cent in September, though down 7.2 per cent on the year.
· And while Toyota's Corolla sales were up a more modest 11.8 per cent in September, Corolla sales are up 16.1 per cent on the year.
"September was a banner month for a number of models in the Canadian new vehicle sector, with eight of the market's top 10 passenger cars growing by double digit percentages," notes DesRosiers.
While the Elantra is hot, Honda's Civic is rolling along quite nicely and is almost certain to retain its stranglehold on the No. 1 spot for all of 2012 – the 15 th straight time the Civic has been Canada's best-selling car. Civic sales are up 27.6 per cent through all of 2012 and Honda's compact sales were up 22.3 per cent in September.
Meanwhile, the Ford F-Series remains the best-selling vehicle in Canada overall, though sales were down in September by 3.3 per cent.
"There is an interesting story here as well, one that many OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) face on a regular basis," notes DesRosiers. "With F-Series down, one could jump to the conclusion that Ford had a tough month, but a quick look at the previous year's results places the most recent numbers in perspective. September 2011 was a blowout month for Ford, so even though the most recent numbers are soft, they're only soft in comparison to an anomalously good month."
Indeed, F-Series sales are up 12.7 on the year. Light truck sales overall are up 4.4 per cent on the year, while car sales have jumped 9.5 per cent. So the marketplace shift to light trucks has stopped – for now. Canadians are back buying cars at a greater rate than light trucks.
But with a new Ram pickup heading to showrooms this month, and with a new Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra coming in a few months, pickup sales might very well heat up dramatically in the coming months.
Here's a look at Canada's top 10 cars and light trucks through the end of September 2012:
|Hyundai Santa Fe||16,845||20,016||15.8%|
Source: DesRosiers Automotive Consultants