Truck and SUV sales are on fire in Canada

Based on May's numbers, experts says new light truck sales should surpass one million for the first time ever in 2014.
Based on May's numbers, experts says new light truck sales should surpass one million for the first time ever in 2014. Getty Images

Vehicle makers released on Tuesday monthly sales numbers for May, and things are looking up if you’re a dealership owner — especially if you sell trucks or crossover models.

Total sales of cars and light trucks climbed 5.7 per cent last month compared to May a year ago, setting a new all-time monthly high for vehicles sold in Canada.

Canadians bought just under 200,000 vehicles last month, bringing the annualized pace of sales to 1.89 million.

The previous high was 1.88 million set in January 2008 — months before the North American auto industry was caught in the global financial crisis that nearly bankrupted domestic auto-makers.

This year is shaping up to be another banner year, according to experts.

Heading into 2014, experts thought sales would be brisk this year but not quite topping levels witnessed 2013, which set a record.

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Yet the rate of vehicles that moved off dealership lots last month “virtually guarantees that full-year 2014 sales will climb to record highs,” Scotiabank analyst Carlos Gomes said. Nearly a third of annual sales are made between April and June.

“It looks like record low financing rates and attractive new models are bringing buyers through the doors despite a cooler economic backdrop,” Bank of Montreal economist Alex Koustas said.

More buyers are returning to leasing again this spring, according to reports, while many continue to elect to stretch car loans out over longer (and we mean longer) periods of time to buy a new vehicle.

READ MORE: The rise of the 8-year car loan

The light truck category, which includes SUVs and crossover makes, continues to make gains while car models continue to lose favour among buyers, Scotia’s Gomes said.

“Light trucks, especially crossover utility vehicles, continue to outperform,” the analyst said. “For example, Chrysler’s Jeep brand posted record volumes last month.”

North American auto production is also expected to hit a new high this year, as well, surpassing 17 million vehicles. But as many have noted, Canadian workers are reaping less of the rewards from the industry’s success.

Here’s a look at historical sales volumes in Canada for cars and light trucks, as well as 2014 full-year estimates from Scotia:

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And the growth in truck sales in recent years.

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