Many will remember 2009 as a bleak year for the automotive industry, as plant shutdowns, layoffs and bankruptcies plagued manufacturers.
Now that the year is over, do the numbers support that perception?
A new report from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants reveals that while the year ended on a strong note for most manufacturers, Canadians purchased 1.46 million light vehicles in 2009—a 10.7 percent drop from 2008. This marks the lowest volume of sales since 1998 and the largest year-over-year drop since 1990.
The report shows that of Canada’s major automakers, General Motors of Canada (GM) had the toughest year, registering a 29.1 percent sales drop. Chrysler Canada Inc was not far behind, with sales down 26.7 percent.
By contrast, Ford Motor Company of Canada had a positive year, increasing sales by 6.8 percent.
Honda Canada reported a sales drop of 18 percent, while Toyota Canada Inc’s sales were down 9.5 percent.
Combined, automobiles from these five companies comprised just over 65 percent of the vehicles sold in Canada. GM continued to have the highest market share, at 17.2 percent. It was followed by Ford (15.4 percent), Toyota (13 percent), Chrysler (11.1 percent) and Honda (8.4 percent).
With most industry leaders struggling in 2009, there was ample opportunity for auto manufacturers with a traditionally smaller Canadian presence to benefit.
“When four out of five of the largest players struggle (each for different reasons) then it leaves a lot of room, and I mean a lot of room, for others to do well,” said industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers in a statement reported by the Canadian Press.
Indeed, many other automakers had notable sales gains over the course of the year.
Hyundai Auto Canada Corp topped the 100,000-unit mark in Canada for the first time ever, notching a 28-percent increase in sales in 2009.
Kia Canada and Subaru Canada, Inc each had a good year as well, with sales up 22.9 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively, from 2008.
Sales of vehicles in Mercedes-Benz Canada’s group were up 11.7 percent, while Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada Inc reported a sales increase of 6.2 percent.
Audi Canada’s sales were up 22 percent and BMW Canada’s grew 6.4 percent. Sales of Volvo Canada and Volkswagen Canada vehicles edged up 0.5 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.
Mazda Canada Inc reported a sales drop of 13.3 percent in 2009, while Nissan Canada Inc’s sales fell by nearly five percent from 2008.
A strong December
While sales results are uneven across 2009, nearly every automaker experienced improvements in December. At 17.8 percent, overall sales of light vehicles in Canada were up in December compared with the same month a year earlier—the only month of the year in which the year-over-year difference was positive.
Toyota had significant a year-over-year change in December, reporting an 86.2 percent spike in sales.
Ford’s sales in December were up 25.4 percent, Honda’s 20.9 percent and Chrysler’s 12.9 percent. GM’s monthly sales declined 9.3 percent.
Kia’s year-over-year sales were up 61.1 percent in December. Hyundai reported sales growth of 37.4 percent compared with December 2008, while Subaru sales climbed 27.2 percent.
Sales of Mercedes-Benz vehicles were up14.5 percent in December. BMW’s sales grew 5.9 percent, and Nissan’s sales edged up one percent.
On the other side of the ledger, Volkswagen’s December sales were down 10.9 percent. Mazda’s sales fell 5.5 percent, while Audi’s dropped 5.1 percent.
The greatest change by far was experienced at Volvo; with 625 units sold in December, its year-over-year sales were up a whopping 133.2 percent.
According to the Canadian Press, there are two reasons for the positive sales experienced by most companies in December: the fact that many automakers were offering sales incentives and the fact that sales in December 2008 were particularly weak.