The Hyundai Elantra has jumped into the early lead in the battle for first place in passenger car sales in Canada, knocking the Honda Civic out of top spot.
Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. sold 6,493 Elantra compacts in the first two months of 2013, compared with Honda Canada Inc.'s total of 5,280 for the Civic, which has been the best-selling car in Canada for 15 years. The results are being compared with a very strong first quarter of 2012, Honda Canada spokeswoman Maki Inoue noted Thursday. It's too early in the year to conclude that the Elantra will top the Civic in annual sales but Honda has some ground to recover after Civic sales plunged 36 per cent in January and February from year-earlier levels. That is compared with a 5 per cent rise for Elantra sales.
"The selling season has just begun and the winter months are among the year's slowest for new vehicle sales, but Hyundai's early lead could presage some interesting late-quarter tussles in the ultra-competitive C-size [compact] segment," DesRosiers Autmotive Consulants Inc. said Thursday in its monthly list of the top 10 selling vehicles in Canada.
Both cars trail the Ford F-Series pickup, which is the best-selling vehicle in Canada, with a 10 per cent increase from last year's level pushing sales to 14,529 in the first two months of the year.
The Ram pickup sold by Chrysler Canada Inc. ranks second behind the F-Series. Sales of pickup trucks have been one of the bright spots for auto makers so far this year amid a sales dip of 3 per cent. Sales of GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra have also risen this year. The robust pace of sales in Canada has slowed after hitting the second-best level on record last year, while the U.S. market is bouncing back strongly. That's a reversal of the situation during and immediately after the 2008-2009 recession when U.S. sales plunged to 30-year lows. Canadian sales fell, but not nearly to the same extent.
The U.S. market should maintain its 15.3 million annual selling rate in March, consulting firms J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive said Thursday.
That's the same level of sales as February and a jump of 8 per cent from March, 2012 levels. the firms said in their monthly sales forecast. They noted one similarity, however, between the Canadian and U.S. markets – strong demand among consumers for loans of longer than six years.
The number of U.S. consumers taking out loans longer than six years hit a record 32.1 per cent of buyers this month, compared with 30.4 per cent a year earlier, data provided to J.D. Power by dealers showed.
Terms at that length have traditionally been a problem for the industry, acknowledged John Humphrey, senior vice president of J.D. Power's global automotive practice. But low interest rates and growth in leasing mitigate concerns about drivers delaying purchases of new vehicles, Mr. Humphrey said.
In Canada, 63 per cent of loans taken out were longer than six years.