September 3, 2014 4:53 pm

Canadians keep truckin’ as car models fall further out of favour

Truck sales were up sharply in August among Canadian dealerships, putting 2014 on pace for the best year for auto sales on record.

Despite a backdrop of towering debt levels and shaky employment, Canadian auto sales continue to race higher.

More specifically, sales are surging for pickups, crossovers and SUVs. Car models made by the top-selling makes meanwhile continue to drop sharply in popularity.

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Automakers said Wednesday total sales for the month of August rose eight per cent compared to August of last summer – an all-time high for the month and a clip that maintains this year’s record-setting pace.

Leading the pack is Ford, which sold nearly 28,000 vehicles, up 3 per cent in August compared to the same month in 2013.

MORE: Consumers on fresh shopping spree — despite lofty debt levels

That increase was powered by 10 per cent rise in truck sales, more than offsetting a steep drop in car sales, which declined by more than a fifth – or 20.5 per cent.

Ford sold 12,521 F-Series trucks and nearly 5,100 Escapes, representing two thirds of automaker’s total Canadian sales in the month. The Focus was Ford’s top selling car model, with 2,063 vehicles sold.

The percentage gain/loss of sales, truck vs. car across major automakers in Canada in August:
Click here to view data »

Car popularity plummets

The story at the country’s other major automakers is largely the same – strong sales growth in larger vehicle catagories while fewer consumers are opting for cars.

General Motors said sales were up 5 per cent overall in August, what Chrysler reported a spike of 22 per cent in sales.

At GM, the Chevy Silvarado and GMC Sierra models helped lift truck sales by 7.3 per cent, while the number of cars sold last month dipped by 1.1 per cent.

Chrysler’s boom in August was lifted by a 33 per cent uptick in truck, light truck, crossover and minivan sales. Car sales were off by nearly a third, or 32 per cent.

Gas prices decline

The run-up in sales of trucks hasn’t been dented by rising gas prices this summer. Gas prices rose sharply through June before coming back down through July and August to sit a few cents per litre lower than where they were a year ago, according to online tracking service gasbuddy.com.

gas prices TO September to September

Better incentives

August’s sales numbers build on July’s torrid pace, which saw car and light truck sales in Canada jump to an all-time record (1.93 million annualized), surpassing the previous peak set in May.

Experts suggest aggressive promotions from the big automakers is playing a major role, as well as rock-bottom interest rates that are encouraging bigger auto financing loans.

MORE: The rise of the 8-year car loan

“The advance reflects the best vehicle affordability in decades, partly due to enhanced incentives — including ‘employee pricing’ — as well as the rising popularity of crossover utility vehicles (CUVs),” Scotiabank auto expert Carlos Gomes said in a note.

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