It is encouraging that April 2021 sales units of 162,455 new vehicles in Canada were up by 254.4% from their year-ago nadir, as estimated by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC). But they are not back to normal yet.
Sales of just 45,833 new vehicles in April 2020 marked the low-point in the extended sales collapse resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it was the lowest sales total for the month since 1951, according to DAC.
This April’s spectacular year-over-year percentage increase, however, masks the less-encouraging news that sales were down by 12.3% from the same month in 2019, which was the last comparative reference point from more normal times. And year-to-date sales, although up 10.9% from 2020, were down 9.3% from 2019.
Reinforcing that cautionary view, the SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Sales Rate) for the month slipped to 1.66 million, according to Andrew King, Managing Partner at DAC. That’s about where it was from November through January and well below the 1.8 to 1.9-million level of the past two months.
However, that relative decline does not necessarily reflect a deterioration of market demand. Not only are pandemic-related restrictions still a sales deterrent throughout much of the country, a global electronic microchip shortage has significantly reduced supply from many automakers.
So, actual sales figures at this time may best be considered a snapshot of what is rather than a valid predictor of what is to come.
Mixed results for individual brands
While some additional automakers have returned to monthly sales reporting, at least temporarily, a complete breakdown of relative results will have to wait until the end of Q2.
Of those that did report April results, Genesis showed the greatest percentage gains, with year-to-date sales up 232.0% from 2020 and 209.0% from 2019.
Volvo and Acura fared next best on year-over year comparisons, at 89.6% and 85.6% respectively. Volvo’s figures were also up 8.1% from 2019 levels, but Acura was down 10.7% from that baseline.
Mazda did well on both counts with cumulative sales, up 76.6% from 2020 and 9.1% from 2019. And Kia wasn’t far behind at 66.5% and 6.7% respectively.
Results from other reporting brands tended close to 2019 year-to-date levels: Subaru, +1.5%; Toyota, -1.4%; Hyundai, -2.22%; and Lexus, -3.5%.
The biggest outlier was Honda, with four-month sales down 28.7% from 2019 levels, and up just 30.8% from 2020. In addition, based on DAC’s sales estimates, Hyundai outsold Honda in the month of April.
Interesting times in a chaotic market!