Canadian auto sales set record pace
Sales of passenger cars slipped 6.8 per cent to 346,584 but light trucks more than picked up the slack.
TORONTO — Ken Dacko makes the 200-kilometre round trip from his home in Alma, Ont., to a factory in Brampton, Ont., where he works once a week, in his 2016 Jeep Wrangler.
Dacko purchased the vehicle earlier this year because, he says, it’s reliable and guaranteed to start, giving him peace of mind.
“Four-wheel drive is important for the wintertime because I leave for work around three-thirty, four o’clock in the morning, and sometimes the roads this far north are not plowed,'” he says.
Dacko, 76, is one of thousands of Canadians snapping up new vehicles in droves, despite concerns about the economy and mounting consumer debt.
Data released Monday by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants shows that Canada is on track for yet another year of record-high sales, and light trucks — a category that includes pickups, SUVs, minivans and crossovers — are driving the trend.
Canadians bought 989,177 new vehicles in the first six months of this year, up six per cent from the same period last year, when they snatched up 933,439 vehicles, according to the market research firm.
Experts say cheap credit and economic strength in Ontario, British Columbia and to some extent Quebec are helping boost sales.
“Interest rates are incredibly low, and as we all know, vehicles are one of the big purchases in people’s lives,” says Charlotte Yates, an automotive industry expert and vice-president academic at the University of Guelph.
Monday’s data also highlights the continuing shift away from passenger cars and towards light trucks.
Sales of passenger cars slipped 6.8 per cent to 346,584, according to DesRosiers, but light trucks more than picked up the slack.
Canadians bought 642,593 new light trucks in the first six months of the year, an increase of 14.5 per cent over last year. The bestselling model was the Ford F-Series truck, with 72,233 vehicles sold so far this year.
Automotive analyst Dennis DesRosiers says crossovers have become especially popular in recent years, displacing the minivan as the family vehicle of choice.
“They fit everything, so the boomer has a vehicle that they can load up with their sports equipment and head out to the beach, and grandma and grandpa that are babysitting have a vehicle that they can put the kids in,” DesRosiers says.
Their height also makes them convenient for people who may have mobility issues.
“They’re much easier to get into and out of as opposed to a small sedan,” says Scotiabank economist Carlos Gomes.
Yates says the relationship that Canadians have to the outdoors is another reason why sales of light trucks have been on fire.
“I do think there is a kind of iconic culture around the SUV, the crossover, the truck,” says Yates.
“We live a paradoxical existence. More and more of us live in cities, but we still have the myth that we need the four-wheel drive because we’re going to the country. … It’s about expressing a kind of lifestyle choice, and I think that it’s been very, very powerful.”