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Canadian sales: Oddly mixed bag

by David Zatz on

Not surprisingly, FCA’s Canadian sales dropped by 19% in the first quarter of 2020. There were two reasons: the coronavirus, and, for those in and around the oil industry (most of Alberta and some of BC), an oil war that is devastating shale-oil producers. Oil is currently trading at roughly half the price shale-oil producers need just to break even.

There was some good news, namely a 50% increase in Ram Heavy Duty pickup sales (though only to 3,282, and accompanied by lower Ram 1500 sales). The Grand Caravan somehow managed to gain by 2% to 8,408, possibly because people wanted to snap them up while they could; the Dodge minivan is being replaced by the Chrysler Voyager.  Voyager and Pacifica combined mustered only 674 sales in the quarter, down 17%, and it’s quite possible Canadians will see the Voyager rebadged as the Caravan.

In the US, the worst hits to FCA sales were at Fiat; in Canada, Chrysler was clobbered, with 300 sales practically gone. Canadians bought just 200 Chrysler 300s last quarter, compared with 1,128 in Q1 2019. The Charger was also down, from 1941 to 499 — a 74% drop — and the Challenger plummeted 57%, from 651 to 283. Overall, Chrysler fell by 55%. Dodge only fell by 20%, with the big cars offset by the Caravan; but all the most profitable Dodges fell, right down to the Durango, down 23% to 2,015. For this quarter, Jeep was right behind Ram as FCA Canada’s second most popular brand.

Next hardest hit was, surprisingly, Jeep, down 35%. Based on Dodge’s numbers we’d expect the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler to be hardest hit, but it was the cheaper Jeeps that took the punch: Compass down 59% (to 989), Cherokee down 52% (to 1689), and Renegade down 51% (to 85!). Wrangler fell by 43% to 3677, but Grand Cherokee only dropped by 14%, to 4087, making it the by-far sales leader for FCA. The Gladiator managed a respectable 723 sales, which is over three times the combined Alfa Romeo and Fiat brands.

At Ram, trucks and chassis-cabs were stable with 59 more sold than in Q1 2019, a surprise given the situation in Alberta. Big van sales fell by just 4%, and small vans fell by 66%, to just 84. Ram as a whole dropped by 1%.

Speaking of Fiat-designed-and-built products, like the ProMaster City, Fiat and Alfa Romeo had the smallest drop other than Ram; both fell by 25%. Then again, they didn’t have as far to fall. Alfa Romeo sales went from 154 (keep in mind this is for an entire large country, for three months) to just 115; the top seller was the Stelvio with 72 sold, falling below any CDJR model, including the Fiat-made Renegade and ProMaster City (the two lowest sellers in the CDJR range). The Giulia eked out 38 sales.

Over at Fiat, the bloodbath continued. Two models posted large percentage gains; the 500L grew sales by 150%, which means five were sold across the country. Over three months. The 500X gained by 23%, from 13 to 16. The top seller remains the 124 (Spider), with 31 sales, down 21%; and the former top seller, the inexpensive 500, fell to just 12 sales from 31. That’s four cars per month, for an entire country. One suspects that when PSA takes over, Fiat and Alfa Romeo will make a quiet exit from Canada, even if they stay in the United States, unless the European 500e is brought over to support fuel-economy standards.

One complicating factor is that FCA Canada seemed to have been reducing incentives and accepting sales declines in return for higher profits. Whether this was the case for Q1 is impossible for us to say.

Overall, sales could have been far worse, and in the next quarter, almost certainly will be.

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