Sedans aren’t the kings of the automotive market they once were, but these cars are still popular with Canadian buyers.
In the middle of a catastrophic recession that created a global credit crunch, dropped the bottom out of the U.S. housing market, and caused Canadian auto sales to crater, 759,092 passenger cars were sold in Canada. The year was 2009, and it was succeeded by eight consecutive years of Canadian auto sales improvement.
Canadian auto sales are now 37 per cent stronger than they were in the depths of the The Great Recession, when nationwide volume tumbled to an 11-year low. In fact, 2018 was the second-best year for the Canadian auto industry in its history. But here’s the catch: passenger car sales are 24 per cent lower than they were when the recession drove auto sales into the basement.
Gone are the days when cars ate the lion’s share of Canada’s auto sales pie. In fact, not since 2009 have cars produced the majority of Canadian auto sales. Only 29 per cent of the new vehicles sold in 2018 were passenger cars.
There remain, however, a variety of hugely popular cars. Canada’s 10 most popular, with figures supplied by the Global Automakers of Canada, produce slightly more than half of the entire passenger car sector’s volume.
10. Honda Accord: 13,827, up 2 per cent
Although Honda Canada is a far cry from generating the level of Accord popularity of days gone by – nearly 26,000 were sold in 2004 – Honda is also far removed from the disappointing post-recession doom and gloom when, in 2011, fewer than 9,000 Accords were sold. Accord sales climbed to a three-year high in 2018, boosted by a more visually distinctive tenth-generation model that closely challenged the best-selling midsize car for top honours.
9. Kia Forte: 14,399, down 12 per cent
The launch of an all-new generation at the end of 2018 could be what the Kia Forte needs to regain the momentum the Forte displayed in 2017, its best year of Canadian sales yet. But the Forte is faced with the same anti-car forces as its competitors, and while the Forte remains popular by the standards of most cars, seven direct rivals sell more often. Capturing attention in the heated compact car sector, even as Canada’s ninth-ranked passenger car, is no task for the fainthearted.
8. Toyota Camry: 14,588, up 0.1 per cent
2018 was the fourth consecutive year in which the Toyota Camry led Canada’s midsize sedan sector. It’s a sector that’s quickly shrinking, not just in terms of the number of buyers but even the number of options available. Incidentally, the demise of competitors has opened up a clearer path forward for the Camry and its closest rival, the Honda Accord. They’re the only 2 cars among Canada’s 10 top sellers to sell more often in 2018 than in 2017.
7. Volkswagen Jetta: 15,129, down 13 per cent
The sixth-generation Jetta launched in late 2010 and instantly drove Volkswagenback into the heart of Canada’s mainstream automotive sphere. Jetta sales jumped by more than 80 per cent in 2011 and then kept climbing. 31,042 Jettas were sold in 2014. Since then however, and even before the TDI emissions scandal broke, Jetta sales have been falling, a trend the new seventh-gen Jetta has only just begun to disrupt. (The Jetta ranked fourth among cars in December.) Jetta volume has plunged 51 per cent since its peak.
6. Volkswagen Golf: 21,477, down 13 per cent
Seemingly in the blink of an eye, Volkswagen turned from being terribly late to the SUV party to relying heavily upon its SUVs for a huge chunk of its Canadian sales volume. Only two years ago, only 21 per cent of Volkswagen’s Canadian volume came from utility vehicles. That figure is now twice as strong. And it’s a good thing, because sales of Volkswagen’s core models – such as the Golf – took a big hit in 2018. Enthusiasts will be pleased to note that sales of the Golf’s GTI performance variant rose 13 per cent to 2,609 units in 2018, 12 per cent of the nameplate’s total.
5. Chevrolet Cruze: 26,287, down 4 per cent
It’s typically been one of America’s higher-volume cars, and it’s clearly a top seller in Canada, as well. But GM has made it clear that there’s no North American future for its compact car, which it simply can’t sell enough of to make it worth the company’s continued investment. Cruze volume has fallen by roughly a quarter since 2014. Remember, as recently as 2004, GM Canada sold more than 63,000 compact cars across its Chevrolet and Pontiac lineups.
4. Mazda 3: 26,728, down 4 per cent
Can Mazda return the 3 to its heyday with the launch of a brand new 3 for 2019, a car that will be offered with eye-catching exterior design and all-wheel drive? Over 50,000 copies of the 3 were sold in 2008; barely more than half that many were sold in 2018. Given the market’s predilection for utility vehicles, it’s unlikely that the 3 will report those kinds of figures again. But perhaps a new 3 will be able to stick a plug in the drain. Mazda 3 volume has fallen 35 per cent just since 2014.
3. Hyundai Elantra: 41,784, down 9 per cent
Far from the 54,760 sales Hyundai Canada managed with the Elantra in 2013, Elantra volume fell to an eight-year low in 2018. No longer a meaningful challenger for top spot, the Elantra still ended 2018 far from falling off the podium. Although SUVs and crossovers such as the Hyundai Tucson and Kona are swiftly taking over from cars, the Elantra remains – for now – Hyundai’s top seller. One-third of the Hyundais sold in Canada are Elantras.
2. Toyota Corolla: 48,796, down 3 per cent
With a new hatchback on sale and a new sedan arriving for the 2019 model year, Toyota is certainly poised to make a move in Canada’s car market. But it will be an uphill battle. The Corolla’s biggest rival keeps stealing more and more market share. Meanwhile, car buyers are disappearing from every segment to become SUV buyers. Corolla sales in 2018 nevertheless climbed above 48,000 units for just the fourth time in the last decade.
1. Honda Civic: 69,005, down 0.04 per cent
When the Honda Civic began its streak as Canada’s best-selling car, the country’s best hockey players were struggling to score goals in Nagano. Jean Chretien was in the second year of his second prime ministerial mandate. Ken Starr was Time’s Man Of The Year. Kids were watching A Bug’s Life. It was 1998. 2018 was the 21st consecutive year of passenger car sales leadership for the Honda Civic, and despite a fast-falling car market, the Civic is holding steady. Sales in 2018 topped 69,000 for just the second time in the last decade.