While final 2016 numbers aren’t fully reported, there’s no sign of change to the previous five-year trend of increasing new car sales in Canada. From 2011 to 2015, annual sales increased steadily by over 300,000 units in that period. Sales in 2015 alone accounted for over 1.9 million vehicles, according to Statistics Canada.
Of those, trucks — including pickups, minivans and sports-utility vehicles — led the way with over 1.2 million vehicles sold. The remaining 700,000 vehicles are passenger cars. Looking at the top ten vehicles, fully seven fit the truck category. There’s no sign of the trend toward larger vehicles abating. Here’s a look at the favourites among Canadian car buyers.
Ford F-Series Pickups
The F-Series line proves critical to Ford’s success again in 2016. March 2016 proved to be the top sales month in history for the Ford pickup. Over 13,000 trucks were sold in that month alone, capping a booming first quarter. Then in April, that record fell with an additional 500-plus units sold.
The F Series is by far the most popular vehicle in the Ford lineup. F-Series trucks outsell the entire Lincoln division by about 20 times, as well as accounting for 52 percent of Ford’s total sales.
Despite popular models from other manufacturers, Ford accounts for 38 percent of the pickup trucks in the Canadian market. To put it into another perspective, F-Series trucks sold more in the first quarter than most automakers’ total vehicle sales. The success of the F-Series causes Ford to look toward bolstering sales popularity for its other vehicles, since the Escape, Fusion and Focus models all show decline.
FCA Ram Pickups
The Dodge Ram provides the F-Series with its strongest competition, but remains a rather distant second place. The product of the Fiat Chrysler Automobile Group trailed Ford by over 7,000 trucks in the first four months of 2016. January 2017 saw some bad news for the Ram diesel line, as a class action suit regarding misrepresentation of vehicle emissions filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Despite a sales slump of 11 percent in December 2016, the Ram truck lineup saw a 10 percent increase over the same month in 2015. This bump brought the pickup truck line back to 2015 sales levels for the year. While FCA presented this as good news, it represents no gain on the market or for Ram against the more popular F-Series trucks.
Canada’s most popular sedan, the success of the Civic seems perennial since its introduction. The Honda car looks at its 19th year as the best-selling car in Canada, despite a slight decrease in sales versus the previous year. The venerable favourite sees challenge from Hyundai’s Elantra, which actually outsold the Civic in February 2016.
The newest version of the Civic is its tenth generation, all new for 2016. In January 2017, Honda announced plans for a $400 million upgrade of its Alliston assembly plant, home of Canadian market Civics and CR-Vs. This comes on top of $1 billion spent over the last three years to the facility.
The number two car behind the Civic, Hyundai’s Elantra saw two years of sales declines before entering 2016 with a redesign that’s proving very popular. The 2017 model, representing a generational redesign, started selling in early 2016, while in March, the 500,000th Elantra sold in Canada, a 2017 GL model, delivered to a customer in Montreal.
The current model represents the fifth generation of the sedan, introduced in 1991. The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada awarded the 2017 Elantra with two awards for its sedan and sport versions. These come on top of the previous version’s success, earning Canadian and North American Car of the Year awards in 2012.
Combined with its virtual twin, the Chevy Silverado, the pair account for 40 percent of General Motors’ sales in Canada. GM revived the hybrid powertrain option for both models in early 2016, but that hasn’t yet reached the Canadian market. First quarter sales gains were strong for the Sierra, although it wasn’t enough to propel the brand into contention with the second place Ram.
The Chevy Silverado represents a departure for GM which, in Canada, uses the GMC line almost exclusively to sell trucks. This is a marked difference from the U.S. distribution. Proportions in the two countries reverse also, as the Silverado accounts for 72 percent of the sales of the combined Sierra/Silverado brand. Nevertheless, Silverado’s Canadian 2016 first quarter gains topped 18 percent. This comes after setting a Canadian sales record for full-size pickups in 2015.
The Rav4 has not only challenged and overtaken the Ford Escape as Canada’s best selling sport utility, it’s also overtaken the Corolla as Toyota’s best selling vehicle in the country. There’s no sign of waning interest in the SUV and crossover market. Refinements to designs make the models safer and more fuel efficient, while enhancing creature comforts to which families respond. The RAV4 leads the way, showing 2016 first quarter sales gains near 17 percent.
Dodge Grand Caravan
The grandfather of the full-size minivan, the Grand Caravan showed a significant sales slump in 2016. Such is its popularity, however, that it still places in the top ten of all vehicle sales in Canada. The Dodge plant in Windsor retooled and now produces the only true Canadian built minivans, the Grand Caravan and the upscale Pacifica. As more attention turns to smaller, sportier crossovers, expect the popularity of the Grand Caravan to remain strong.
With the slumping sales of the Ford Escape, its perennial competitor from Honda finally passed it in 2016. However, the RAV4 outsold both, so the CR-V remains in the number two spot for sport utility vehicles. For some reason, the CR-V’s American success never fully translated across the border. There’s still reason for hope, however, as sales jumps of nearly 13 percent show that there’s life left in the sleek and sporty Honda utility.
Arguably, the Corolla is the Japanese car that opened North America to fuel-efficient compact cars during the gas wars of the 1970s. While it’s been a long-standing favourite in Canada, it seems that its time as a top ten player may be nearing the end. Toyota hasn’t been able to top Honda for two decades and its own RAV4 now accounts for more sales volume than the Corolla. Losing 7.5 percent in 2016’s first quarter, Corolla faces another challenge in Canada. Currently built in Cambridge, Ontario, Toyota announced in 2015 that Corolla production shifts to Mexico for 2019.