Passenger vehicle sales in Canada started the year on a solid footing, advancing nearly 1% above a year earlier to an annualized 1.75 million units, according to a new report from Scotiabank Economics.
“Despite last month’s polar vortex, which brought freezing temperatures to most of the country, purchases came in stronger than expected, buoyed by popular new crossover utility vehicles,” said report author Carlos Gomes, senior economist at Scotia Capital. “In particular, sales of imported light truck brands soared 22% compared to this time last year, with several automakers posting record volumes for the month of January.”
In contrast, light truck sales for North American automakers fell 4% below a year earlier alongside lower pickup truck volumes – likely a temporary development, Gomes said. Pickup trucks were one of the strongest segments last year, with purchases advancing 12%.
In contrast, U.S. sales were weaker than expected, likely held back by the coldest January since 1994. “Purchases totalled an annualized 15.2 million units, well below the 15.7 million that was expected and lower than last year’s full-year total of 15.5 million,” Gomes said. “Fleet volumes led the decline, posting a double-digit year-over-year fall-off.”
However, household purchases were also disappointing, Gomes said, and were dampened by difficult weather conditions across most of the US. In particular, one automaker indicated that its retail activity posted a double-digit increase in the West, but declined in other regions, especially the hard-hit Great Lakes states and in the east.