Auto industry scored record sales in 2013: BMO

Third consecutive year of growth at 1.74 million units, up 10% since 2011.

January 29, 2014   Joe Terrett

TORONTO — Canadian auto sales had another banner year in 2013 as sales of light vehicles grew for the third consecutive time, says a report by BMO Economics.

Preliminary numbers show sales of passenger vehicles jumping to 1.74 million units in 2013, an increase of 4% since over the 1.68 million units sold in 2012, and a 10% and a increase over 2011’s 1.59 million units.

“A solid model lineup and new offerings from manufacturers at very generous financing terms will continue to generate interest from the Canadian consumer,” said Alex Koustas, an economist with BMO Capital Markets.

He says sales activity will remain brisk, but will likely drop off last year’s pace given rising ownership rates and more elevated debt levels. Auto sales will slide marginally from 1.78 million units in 2013 to 1.71 million units this year. Despite the anticipated drop in volumes, projected sales are expected to mark the third best performance on record.

Koustas says continued investments in the auto industry and competitive pressure are helping to fuel growth. Fuel efficiency has improved by nearly 20% across the board in the last five years and the evolving technology, size, safety and functionality of vehicles have also expanded.

Financing is also driving sales. Since 2009, Canadian automotive loan balances have increased by 165% compared to 35% in total consumer loans. With rates expected to remain low, BMO says it’s likely the credit wheels should remain well greased over the next year.

Leasing has also rebounded. Before the 2007 financial crisis, leasing accounted for nearly half of all auto sales but by 2009, it accounted for less than 10%. Since then lease activity has rebounded to more than 20% of sales.

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