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As we come to the end of the second week of the new year, I wanted to take the time to reflect on the last year and how far the auto industry has come in terms of sales numbers after nosediving earlier in the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we still await the much-anticipated provincial numbers, we can look to the Canadian sales as a snapshot of the market.

It was one of our most challenging years to date, as Canada saw a total of 1.54 million units sold – which was the lowest market total since the end of the recession in 2009. But I have a glass half full approach and I would like to applaud our industry and look at the positives of the last year.

According to reports by DesRosiers Automotive Consultant Inc, at the end of Q3 we only saw about a 20% decline in sales from where we are at the same time in 2019. As I have said before, this number that would have once seemed alarming – but given where we were at the beginning of the pandemic, this news is quite positive (we were down 75% in sales in April, 2020).

Estimated sales for December only fell 2.6% from the same month in 2019 with a total decline of 19.7% with the month outperforming November in percentage terms. Again, not something we would typically be happy about – but it gives me hope for 2021 and an upward trend that should continue.

One trend from 2019 that carried on in 2020 was consumers moving away from passenger cars to light trucks, with the light truck market (which includes the very popular cross over utility vehicles) share reaching 79.9% – a total that DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. notes is easily a new record.

Ford continues to be a market leader and 2020 proved no different, as they sold 239,368 units. They were down almost 50,000 units from 2019, which marked a close to 17 % decline on par with overall Canadian sales. They have the largest market share coming in at 15.6%, just ahead of General Motors at 14.2%.

Kia and Genesis seemed to come out the strongest this year, seeing declines of only 5.5% and 4.1%. Of luxury brands, Mercedes led the market in total volume with overall brand sales of 35,396 units – a decline of 22.8% from the year end totals of 2019.

These year end numbers are by no means perfect news, but I hope they give us a small glimpse of what is to come. I remain optimistic for 2021, in not only seeing sales numbers back to where they were but seeing a stronger, more efficient industry, even more focused on an improved customer experience.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at [email protected]