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A Dark April for the Canadian Car Industry: Sales Fell by 74.6% Last Month

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Normally, a tough month in the auto industry is when sales are down maybe 1 or 2%. With the predictable but sobering 74.6% decline registered in April, the sector has just experienced the worst month in its history in this regard.

The small consolation is that we know the enemy responsible for it: the coronavirus. Still, the numbers are catastrophic. The Canadian division of Automotive News published a detailed analysis of the results on Sunday. Here’s what they found.

Last month's sales reached an estimated total of 45,833 units, compared to 180,616 for the same period last year. If we say estimated, it’s because many auto manufacturers no longer report sales figures monthly, preferring instead to report on a quarterly basis. Nissan Canada has just adopted this practice to bring it in line with that of its American counterpart.  

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Nevertheless, according to Desrosiers Automotive Consultants, Canada's statistical bible in the field, the number of new vehicles sold in April was at the lowest monthly level since 1951.

Worse, April's drop in sales follows a 48.3% drop in March when the first containment measures were slowly being implemented. These two periods easily eclipsed the previous record of 27.7% set in February 2009, at the height of the economic crisis experienced at that time.

Since the beginning of the year, the market is down 36.7% from 2019.

Analysts had warned that April sales would fall by 80% due to Covid-19 and containment measures.

Dealer showrooms, which were closed throughout the month, are reopening today, May 4, in Quebec and Ontario, but for now are serving customers only via appointment. The two provinces together represent about 80% of the country's new vehicle market.

See also: What Canada's car companies are doing during the pandemic

2020 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Some examples
Toyota Canada is one of the few automakers that still report sales on a monthly basis. The firm reported a 73% drop in April; translated into actual numbers, the automaker sold 6,308 new vehicles last month compared to 23,234 a year ago (figures include Lexus). Even its top seller the RAV4 experienced a drop of 77% compared to the same month last year. Lexus saw  a 78% decline in April, during which the division was only able to sell 587 vehicles.

Hyundai sales were down 76%. Its luxury brand Genesis was only able to deliver 41 vehicles. Kia sales were down 77%. At Subaru, sales were down 75%.

Obviously, no one was spared and the catastrophic numbers are similar everywhere.

Let's hope that the month of May will bring better news. Several analysts are predicting a beginning of recovery starting sometime in mid-month.

Photo: Big Stock