As a result of the pandemic, auto sales fell 20% in 2020, from 1,942,717 units to 1,553,555. A number lower than what was sold twenty years ago, and barely higher than that of of 2009, when the industry was going through a financial crisis that had also caused the bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler.
Rest assured, these numbers will climb dramatically for 2021, although many manufacturers still have to contend with significant vehicle shortages. This is particularly the case with Ford, where several models in demand are long overdue. Think about Mustang Mach-E, whose arrival is still postponed for about two months, as well as at the very profitable F-150 2021, and which trickles into dealerships, because it is clearly lucrative to supply the US market first.
That being said, there are still some manufacturers who did very well in 2020. Kia which, in the context, saw its sales drop only 5.5%. A result that must be applauded, and which is explained not only by the arrival of the already popular Seltos, but also because the manufacturer has worked hard. The six-month break from payments, massive promotions across multiple models, and the ubiquity of ads clearly had a big impact. Moreover, looking only at the Quebec market, Kia sales for their part climbed 0.7%. Could the arrival of Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin have something to do with it?
At national scale, Subaru and Mazda also fared very well, with respective declines of 9.4% and 13%, although the transition from cars to SUVs was drastic: Subaru car sales fell 24.7% this year while those of SUVs, which includes the Crosstrek, fell only 3.5%. Then, at Mazda, the compact Mazda3 was losing 40% of followers, with domestic sales of just 12,769 units. Twice less than the CX-5, while in 2014, Mazda sold twice as many Mazda3s as CX-5s (40,974 versus 19,920). Like what, the market quickly turned around.
Among American manufacturers, General Motors and Ford defended themselves slightly better than FCA, with drops of 14.9% and 16.8%, compared to 19.9% for FCA. That said, and despite a severe shortage in this segment, sales of full-size pickup trucks have remained afloat, particularly on the part of GM, which sold almost the same number of pickup trucks as last year. Sales of GM pickup trucks even surpassed in La Belle Province, and for the first time in a long time, sales of the Ford F Series, by some 1,000 units. This is of course explained by the unavailability of vehicles at Ford, but also by the craze for GM trucks since their redesign.
As for luxury brands, Cadillac saw sales climb 4.2% nationwide, and 14% in Quebec. An exploit that can be explained by the promotions attributed to the XT4, but also by the arrival of models like the CT5 and the XT6. It is also the only luxury brand to have experienced a year of growth in the country, even though Genesis, in full rise, suffered a slight drop of 4%.
Now it must also be mentioned that some luxury brands have suffered a lot. Think of Acura (-27.8%), to Bmw (-30.5%) which is overtaken by Audi, to Jaguar (-41%), but particularly to Infiniti, the fall of which is constantly accelerating, with a drop of 47.3%. A real disaster to the point where in 2020, Infiniti sold 40% less vehicles than Volvo. Only 5,783 vehicles for 39 dealers. Do the math.
Moreover, of all the manufacturers, Nissan (which also includes Infiniti) is undoubtedly the one who suffered the most. By combining the two brands, sales went from 134,729 units in 2019 to 88,450 for 2020. Barely 15,000 more vehicles than Kia, which only offers one banner, and who was being laughed at. only a few years ago.
Obviously, the failed launch of the Sentra and the delayed arrival of certain models had a significant impact on Nissan’s sales in Canada. However, could we also wonder about how Nissan Canada managed its inventories in 2019 and 2020, as well as the crisis related to the pandemic? No doubt the manufacturer will learn a good lesson, the objective no longer being to play the frog which wanted to become as big as the ox. Because indeed, there was a not so distant time when Nissan was only looking for volume. A daredevil strategy which, you will have noticed, has heavily affected the value of the brand’s products.
It remains to be seen whether 2021 will be a year of rebirth for Nissan, as other new features like the Pathfinder and Frontier pickup will join the freshly revamped Sentra, Kicks and Rogue, and the new Versa.
As for Fiat, which only sold 228 vehicles in 2020, including 50 in Quebec, consider its departure from the country as confirmed. Especially with the formalized creation of Stellantis (marriage between FCA and PSA), a consortium that will certainly not accept that a brand is thus abandoned.
Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my [email protected] 1-800-268-7116