May 2021 Canadian auto sales continue to underperform

Canadian auto sales of 153,761 new units in May 2021, as estimated by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC), were up 35.8% from the same month last year, which on the surface makes for a positive headline. But last May’s numbers were dramatically depressed by COVID-19 restrictions at that time, so they are far from a good comparator. 

From a more relevant perspective, the May 2021 total was down by 23.9% from that of May 2019, which was the last valid period for “normal” comparison. It is not an encouraging number.

That sub-normal performance has helped exacerbate year-to-date sales of just 686,252 new vehicles, which are down 14.2% from 2019, although up 28.9% from last-year’s pandemic-impacted nadir.

Amplifying those discouraging numbers, while May is typically the strongest month of the year for new-vehicle sales, this May’s results were even down 5.4% from April’s numbers.

And the SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Sales Rate) for the month fell to 1.48 million—the lowest level seen since May of last year, according to Andrew King, Managing Partner at DAC.

It’s a “definite disappointment after the strong performances that started the year,” said King, noting that “the industry is still struggling with its current ‘twin troubles’; with problems persisting on both the demand and supply sides of the market.”

Those “twin troubles” are the ongoing demand-side deterrents of pandemic related restrictions, and other impacts plus a global electronic microchip shortage that has significantly reduced supply from many automakers. 

It is a situation that makes planning for the balance of the year uncertain at best.

Results vary for individual brands

Given that many automakers continue to report sales only quarterly rather than monthly, a complete breakdown of results won’t be available until the end of Q2.

Of those that did report May results, Genesis continued to show the greatest percentage gains, with year-to-date sales up 263.1% from 2020 and 115.9% from 2019.

Acura fared next best, compared to last year with a 66.0% increase, though cumulative sales were still down 13.62% from 2019.

Kia’s year-to-date sales were up 60.5% and 7.3% from 2020 and 2019 respectively, followed by Mazda at +73.3% and +4.5%.

All the other reporting automakers showed gains from 2020, but still lagged behind 2019 performance, as follows: (Subaru +58.8%/-0.6%); (Hyundai +57.6/-4.4); (Toyota +58.0/-4.5%);(Toyota +52/4/-5.4%); (Volvo /-6.8%); and Honda (+32.9%/-35.4%).

It is noteworthy that, for the second month in a row, Hyundai outsold Honda in May.

The chaos continues!

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