Q2/H1 sales rebound strongly from 2020 but still lag 2019

Data Source: DesRosiers Automotive Consultants; Note*: Given that multiple manufacturers no longer report monthly sales, individual manufacturer and industry totals are reconciled and reported quarterly and annually by DAC.

New vehicle sales in Canada for both the second quarter and first half of 2021 have rebounded strongly from the lows of 2020. Total sales of 478,717 units in Q2 and 857,447 for H1 were up by 51.8% and 33.0% respectively from a year ago, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC).

They are not back to normal pre-pandemic levels yet however, with Q2 down by 15.8% from the same period in 2019 and H1 down by 12.5%.

While the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have now mitigated in much of the country, supply-side limitations resulting from the worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips have curtailed vehicle production for many manufacturers, some significantly more than others. The net result is a still underperforming new vehicle market with wide variations in relative sales among different brands.

On a positive note, the June SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Sales Rate) bounced back from a May low of 1.48 million to about 1.65 million, as estimated by DAC—albeit still well below the 1.9 million-plus range that was the pre-pandemic norm.

These chaotic circumstances make forecasting for the balance of the year difficult, as it appears that demand is returning but supply limitations are likely to be the constraining factor, at least for the immediate future.

Light trucks maintain momentum

Sales of 697,125 light trucks (pickups, vans and utility vehicles, including crossovers) over the first six months of 2021 accounted for 81.3% of all new vehicle sales. That total represents an increase of 37.0% from the same period in 2020, although it’s still 2.8% below the comparable 2019 level.

Correspondingly, H1 sales of 160,322 traditional passenger cars claimed just 18.7% of the market—a sales increase of 18.1% from 2020, but a 39.0% decline from 2019.

The ongoing market shift from cars to light trucks increased by 2.4% from a year ago.

GM outpaces market to stay number one

The traditional Detroit Three were among the hardest hit by the chip shortage, jointly increasing sales by just 19.9% from the first half of last year, in a market that was up by 33.0%, and losing 4.3% of market share in the process. Their cumulative sales were down by 17.0% from H1 2019. 

General Motors fared best of the three, maintaining its number one status from Q1 and selling 129,463 new vehicles through H1, an increase of 31.7% from 2020. That total represented a modest decline of just 2.6% from 2019, significantly outpacing the market and its Detroit counterparts in that respect. Still, GM lost 0.1% of market share from a year ago, down to 15.1%.

Ford maintained its number two position with 120,018 sales in H1, a gain of 15.1% from 2020 but a decline of 22.2% from 2019. In the process, Ford’s market share fell by 2.2% from a year ago, to 14.2%—the greatest share loss of any manufacturer.

Toyota came within 1,600 units of matching Ford’s sales in Q2 and took command of third place in the rankings through H1 with 106,088 units sold—an increase of 55.2% from 2020 and a marginal decline of just 1.8% from 2019.

Consequently, Stellantis was pushed down to fourth place in the rankings with 86,567 sales in H1, up just 11.2% from 2020 and down 26.5% from 2019, resulting in a 2.0% share decline from last year to 10.1%.

The battle for fifth place has heated up with Honda prevailing through H1, but barely. Honda sold 64, 630 vehicles, an increase of 21.8% from 2020 but a decline of 26.8% from 2019, resulting in a year-over-year share decline of 0.7%, to 7.5%. 

Hyundai, Kia, Mazda continue to gain

Hyundai stayed sixth in the rankings but fewer than 2,400 units behind Honda. The Korean brand’s 62,300 sales in H1 were up 42.8% from a year ago and down just 4.0% from 2019. As a result, Hyundai gained 0.5% in market share from a year ago, up to 7.3%.

Nissan held seventh place with 49,680 sales—a gain of 43.9% from 2020, but a significant decline of 24.7% from 2019. That YOY gain however, improved market share by 0.7% from 2020, to 6.2%.

Kia continued to rank eighth, making gains over both prior years, with H1 sales of 41,270 units up 43.1% from 2020 and 7.9% from 2019—the greatest percentage improvement from 2019 of any mainstream brand. As a result, Kia’s market share increased by 0.3%, from a year ago, to 4.8%.

Mazda maintained ninth place in the rankings with 34,575 H1 sales—a gain of 53.1% from 2020 and 6.3% from 2019, improving the Japanese brand’s market share by 0.5% from a year ago, to 4.0%.

Volkswagen held steady in tenth place with 28,410 vehicles sold, up 36.3% from H11 2020 but down 13.6% from 2019. VW’s market share improved by 0.1% from a year ago, to 3.3%.

Subaru wasn’t far behind in 11th with 27,212 H1 sales, up 49.9% from a year ago and down just 0.7% from 2019, increasing market share by 0.4% from 2020, to 3.2%.

Mercedes-Benz maintained its luxury-brand sales leadership over rapidly-gaining Audi, and 12th place overall, with 18,530 sales in H1. That tally represented a 24.9% improvement from 2020 but a 15.6% decline from 2019—dropping Mercedes’ market share by 0.1% to 2.4%.

Audi, BMW and Lexus followed in that order.

Winners and losers

In terms of percent change from Q1 2020, the big “winners” for H1 2021 were: Genesis (282.6%), Porsche (101.7%), Maserati (70.6%), Volvo (66.7%), and Audi (60.1%). 

Relative to the more normal baseline of 2019, the top winners were: Genesis (129.2%), Porsche (9.6%), Kia (7.9%), Audi (6.8%), and Mazda (6.3%).

The greatest “losers,” in terms of percent change from H1 2020, were: Jaguar (-1.1%), FCA/Stellantis (11.2%), Ford (15.1%), Honda (21.8%), and Mercedes-Benz (24.9%)—almost all positive numbers, but the lowest performers in a market with an average increase of 33.0%..

Relative to the 2019 baseline, the big losers were Infiniti (-44.3%), Jaguar (-39.9%), BMW (-28.3%), FCA/Stellantis (-26.5%), and Honda (-26.0%). 


It should be noted that the sales figures reported here are reconciled quarterly by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC) based on sales reported by manufacturers.

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