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Canadian vehicle sales down in March: Scotiabank

But U.S. sales were much stronger than expected last month, Scotiabank said, buoyed by healthy economic activity.


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April 4, 2018 by Canadian Plastics

New vehicle purchases in Canada edged down 0.6 per cent year-over-year (y/y) in March 2018, undercut by a 12.4 per cent y/y slide in car sales, a new report from Scotiabank said.

But truck sales continued to move higher, Scotiabank’s Auto News Flash said, lifting first quarter volumes to the highest level on record. “We estimate that overall car and light truck purchases totalled an annualized 2.08 million units in March, in-line with volumes during the previous two months,” the report said. “Through March, sales have increased two per cent above a year earlier and remain well above the 2017 annual sales pace of 2.04 million.”

Sales of imported brands increased 1.3 per cent y/y in March, the report said, with four automakers posting double-digit gains and nearly offsetting a 2.9 per cent y/y decline at the Detroit Three last month. “The advance among importers was driven by a 12.3 per cent y/y surge in light truck volumes, and was lifted by the introduction of several popular new models this year,” Scotiabank said.

In the U.S., meanwhile, auto sales were stronger than expected last month, Scotiabank said, buoyed by a healthy labour market, accelerating income gains, elevated consumer confidence, and a sharp increase in fleet purchases. “We estimate that sales totalled an annualized 17.4 million units last month, well above the 16.8 million that had been expected,” Scotiabank said.

Fleet volumes surged 16 per cent y/y at the Detroit Three in March, lifting year-to-date volumes above a year ago. “This represents a sharp reversal from the declining trend that had been in place since mid-2016, and reflects businesses beginning to renew their aging vehicles, as well as some stabilization in purchases by the rental-car industry,” Scotiabank said.

Light trucks continued to lead the advance in the U.S., lifting purchases of crossover utility vehicles and SUVs to a record 39 per cent of overall new vehicle sales in March. “These segments accounted for less than one-quarter of the market as recently as six years ago,” Scotiabank said. “Given this ongoing shift, automakers plan to increase North American light truck production five per cent y/y in the second quarter, while continuing to edge car assemblies lower.”