Canadian auto sales have been shooting to new heights for years. It’s hardly a new story. Record results were achieved in 2013, which was also a fourth consecutive year of growth. In 2014, total auto sales volume once again rose to record levels, and that record was broken in 2015. And then that record was broken in 2016.
At the pace achieved by the auto industry through 2017’s first eight months, it would take a dramatic and sudden downturn to stop the Canadian auto industry from reporting 2,000,000 sales for the first time ever.
Across the spectrum, all sorts of automakers and auto brands and auto sectors are deserving of credit. So, too, are new ways of getting customers into cars: long-term lending and low rates are not to be underestimated.
But of all the factors deserving of credit for 2017’s surge — 5 percent growth worth 70,000 extra sales compared with 2016 — the demand for pickup trucks, and full-size pickups most especially, is surely the most worthy.
Pickup trucks, on their own, have added more than 34,000 new sales to the mix in 2017 thanks to a growth rate that’s five times stronger than the non-pickup-truck auto market. Up 15 percent this year, truck volume is rising because of sharp upticks from almost every competing market.
Only Toyota, which is suffering from supply restrictions, particularly with its midsize Tacoma, has sold fewer trucks this year than last. The Nissan Frontier’s 5-percent downturn, meanwhile, is entirely counteracted (and more) by a trebling of Nissan Titan volume.
Elsewhere, from the class-leading Ford F-Series to GM’s full-size and midsize pickup twins to the second-ranked Ram P/U and the second-generation Honda Ridgeline, pickup trucks are flying high.
With four months remaining on the calendar, Ford has already sold more than 100,000 copies of its F-Series in 2017, a feat Ford Canada had never accomplished on a calendar year basis prior to 2012. The F-Series is such a powerful force in Canada’s auto market that it outsells every auto brand save for Chevrolet, Honda, and Toyota. In fact, the Ford F-Series even outsells the rest of Ford, Canada’s top-selling auto brand with the truck lineup factored in.
Yet with a thorough refresh and new engines coming on stream for 2018, enough to cause some consumers to wait, Ford has seen the rate of F-Series growth fall behind the pack in 2017 so far. F-Series volume is up 7 percent, but Ram P/U sales have grown 14 percent and GM’s full-size twins jumped 26 percent in the first eight months of the year.
All of the Detroit domestic full-size trucks are on track for record sales years. The quartet owns 88 percent of Canada’s pickup truck market. Detroit brands own 92 percent of the market. Full-size trucks likewise account for 92 percent of all truck sales despite a 19-percent year-to-date increase on the part of Canada’s five midsize pickups.
The demand produced by automakers for full-size trucks also helps some automakers sell more cars, essentially acting as a large subsidy that permits the biggest automakers to help clear out inventory of vehicles that produce less demand. As a result, FCA car sales are down just 6 percent this year after plunging by a third in 2016. General Motors car sales are actually up 2 percent this year despite the market’s continued passenger car downturn.
Improved fuel efficiency, ever more family-friendly options, better driveability, and luxury options to lure buyers away from premium brands all conspire to make the traditional pickup truck a viable option for more and more Canadian consumers.
Pickups now account for 21 percent of Canada’s auto market, up from 17 percent five years ago and 15 percent a decade ago. Maybe “traditional” pickup trucks is a poor term for a decidedly nontraditional market shift.