Economics reports keep telling us Canada's economy continues to suffer in the wake of the recession of 2008–2009, but that's not being reflected in new vehicle sales. Sure, sales figures took a notable hit in 2009, dropping to 1.46 million from more than 1.6 million the year before, but the auto industry has enjoyed a big rebound since then: new car and light truck sales nearly touched 1.9 million in 2015, up a smidge from about 1.85 million the year before that. If we're still in a recession, it's not evident in dealer showrooms.
There are some familiar names at the top of the list of best-selling brands for 2015, with Ford remaining number one in spite of a five percent slide compared to 2014. They finished the year having watched 270,498 happy customers leave showrooms with new cars and trucks, thanks mostly to the F-150 pickup and Escape compact crossover, the brand's most-popular models.
Toyota and Honda held on to their second- and third-place rankings, enjoying sales increases of 1.7 (182,365) and 2.4 (156,503) percent respectively. Chevrolet and Hyundai round out the top five, just as they did in 2014; Chevy's sales were up 3.1 percent (148,735), while the Korean brand's were down 1.8 percent (135,612).
Volkswagen Canada posted its best December sales figures, and a best-ever annual sales total (topping 70,000 units for first time), in spite of a diesel emissions scandal that forced a September stop-sale order on its popular TDI models.
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No matter how well the market does overall, there are always a few losers. In 2015, sales of Smart's Fortwo (the brand's only model in Canada) were a whopping 71.9 percent off Smart's pace in 2014, with annual sales reaching just 716. Next is Fiat, whose smart 500X compact crossover couldn't halt a slide of 31.3 percent (for a total of 5,512 vehicles sold), and Buick was third, its sales slacking off by 11.5 percent compared to 2014, to 16,594.
We'll have to watch how 2016 treats Fiat and Buick: it will be the first full year for the 500X, which enjoyed only so-so sales following its late-2015 introduction, in spite of competing in the fast-growing subcompact crossover segment. Buick has a new LaCrosse on the way that wowed with sharp styling at an LA Autoshow introduction in November, and the addition of the Envision will give the brand a much-needed competitor in the compact upscale crossover crowd that should help boost sales. We've not much hope for Smart: the new Fortwo is a lot better than the car it replaced, but that hasn't done much for sales. It looks like the current crop of excellent subcompact four-door cars (not to mention the burgeoning subcompact crossover category, which is siphoning sales from every class below it) is killing demand for tiny two-seaters like the Fortwo and competitors like the Scion iQ and Chevrolet Spark.
Before you get into the slideshow, here's a quick list of the Canada's top-10 selling vehicles for 2015.
1. F-150 – 118,837
2. Ram 1500 – 91,195
3. Honda Civic – 64,950
4. GMC Sierra – 53,727
5. Ford Escape – 47,726
6. Hyundai Elantra – 47,722
7. Toyota Corolla – 47,198
8. Dodge Grand Caravan – 46,927
9. Chevrolet Silverado – 46,407
10. Toyota RAV4 – 42,246