Canadian auto sales soared to record levels in May 2017, rising far beyond typical May levels and shooting 8 percent past the previous all-time record month of April 2016.
But not every auto brand joined in on the expansion. At Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, despite a banner month for the automaker overall, sales at the Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep divisions plunged. Volkswagen is still feeling the effects of a post-emissions scandal dive, and May 2017 sales were down 10 percent.
In the premium arena, however, declining volume was most definitely the exception to the rule. Land Rover stumbled only slightly, losing only five sales. Every other premium auto brand operating in Canada sold more often in May 2017’s record month than in May 2016. Every other brand, that is, except for BMW.
And with BMW’s 6-percent year-over-year decline to 3,540 sales in May 2017 came an opportunity for its surging compatriot, Audi. Audi Canada sales increased in May for the 32nd consecutive month. May’s increase translated to an all-time record high of 3,852 sales, enough for Audi to outsell BMW for the first time ever.
This outcome made Audi the second-best-selling luxury auto brand in Canada, 312 sales ahead of BMW.
The natural instinct would be to credit Audi’s utility vehicles. The Audi Q5, newly launched for 2017 in second-gen form, is the top-selling premium utility vehicle in Canada. The Audi Q7 was new last year and has been reporting significant growth. The Audi Q3, Audi’s smallest utility, is one of only a handful of members fighting for sales in the subcompact luxury crossover sector.
But Audi’s trio of utility vehicles was essentially flat last month. Q3 and Q5 sales dipped; the Q7 added only 45 additional sales, year-over-year.
The real credit behind Audi’s rise to No.2 – aside from BMW’s decline – goes to Audi’s cars.
Passenger car sales at the Volkswagen Group’s Audi division jumped 33 percent to 2,184 units in May 2017, equal to nearly six-tenths of the volume at a brand that produced nearly six-tenths of its volume in the first-third of the year with crossovers.
The Audi A3, A4, A5, and R8 all reported improvements in May 2017. Notably, the Audi A4 produced a 29 percent increase worth nearly 200 extra sales in May. This improvement made the A4 Canada’s second-best-selling premium brand vehicle overall in May.
But the launch of the A4’s two-door relation, the second-gen Audi A5, was also a boon to Audi’s Canadian sales success in May. 531 copies of the A5 were sold in May, nearly triple May 2016’s A5 total.
Combined, the A4/A5 tally of 1,405 sales actually placed Audi’s Mercedes-Benz C-Class fighters (Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class figures take into account all body styles) well ahead of the Benz, consistently Canada’s top luxury vehicle.
Moreover, the success of Audi’s cars send a signal to the traditional German powerhouses. After all, Mercedes-Benz (commercial vans excluded) only outsold Audi by 200 sales in May 2017, a modest 5-percent margin.
Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW have much broader lineups. Both brands operate with five utility vehicles—Audi Canada currently runs only three. There are incremental contributors from Mercedes-Benz such as the B-Class and SL-Class for which Audi has no competitors, plus some wagon and coupe body styles Audi doesn’t offer. Similarly, at BMW there are no direct Audi alternatives for the 2-Series or i3, and the 4-Series Gran Coupe’s Audi A5 Sportback alternative has not yet arrived.
Despite the slimmer lineup and smaller dealer network, Audi Canada has never hidden its intention to outsell not only BMW but Mercedes-Benz, as well. Six years ago, then-Audi Canada president Martin Sander said Audi’s goal was to be No.1.
“That’s the vision worldwide.”
Locally, Audi Canada appears destined to achieve that goal. Soon.