06-21-17

CANADIAN SALES MORE NUMEROUS THAN EVER IN MAY 2017; CANADIANS PAID MORE THAN EVER, TOO

2017-Honda-Civic-hatchback-1977-honda-civic-hatchback-1-610x407

By Timothy Cain - Canadian auto sales surged to record levels in May 2017, surpassing the previous monthly record from April of last year by an 8-percent margin and topping 200,000 units for just the second time in history.

You know it's going well when, in a virulently anti-car market, passenger car sales increase, year-over-year.  And in the fifth month of 2017, car sales did indeed improve, growing 3-percent beyond May 2016 levels.

You know it's truly going well when, in a market that had already seen pickup truck market share climb to 20-percent, pickup truck sales jumped 38-percent to form 22-percent of the industry's volume.

And you know it's going exceptionally well when, in the span of just one month, the relatively small Canadian market purchases and leases 217,000 new vehicles at significantly higher prices than in the past.

According to Desrosiers Automotive Reports, Canada's auto industry climbed above 200,000 sales for just the second time in history.  Up to 11-percent, year-over-year, Canadian sales improved by roughly 22,000 units despite outside-the-norm declines from BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Volkswagen.

While losses at a handful of its brands - including a 30-percent dive at Jeep and a 25-percent downturn at Chrysler - clearly diminished some of its potential, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles still says the automaker sold more vehicles in May than ever before.  FCA volume was up 5 percent to 33,186 units.

The Ford Motor Company led all automakers with 34,475 sales, a 17-percent year-over-year improvement that drove the company to its best May since 1989.  General Motors' 36-percent improvement to 31,149 sales produced the best May for GM since 2009, including the best month in Cadillac's history.  Record sales were a common theme at numerous other auto brands as well, from Audi to Honda to Porsche.

That incentives are high is not news to Canadian car buyers.  According to J.D. Power figures revealed by Automotive News Canada, the average new vehicle discount in May 2017 measured $5,800 2-percent higher than in May 2016.

But the typical new vehicle transaction price grew by roughly $1,400 in May 2017, driving the average transaction price above $37,000.

Selling more vehicles, and selling them at a higher price?  Automakers will take that.  Not only are Canadians optioning up existing vehicles, but redesigned vehicles are arriving in Canada with base prices that reflect the weakening Canadian dollar.  The 2018 Honda Odyssey, for instance, sees its MSRP rise 12 percent.

At the heart of the market, where affordability is key, the Ford F-Series - Canada's leading line of vehicles - reported its second-best month ever in May.  Ram P/U sales reached record levels, nearly catching the No. 1 Ford.  The Honda Civic, Canada's top-selling car, was up 5-percent to 8,616 sales, 11-percent of all car sales.  The Ford Escape, a historic Canadian favorite, reclaimed its old position and led all SUVs/crossovers thanks to a 26-percent jump to 5,397 sales.

Meanwhile, May's extraordinary Canadian auto sales achievements, particularly in the light of steady incentives and rising ATPs, have led forecasters to increase their annual forecasts.  Canadian auto sales reached record levels in each o the last four calendar years.  Through the first five months of 2017, Canadian auto sales are up 5 percent.

If that rate of growth continues, Canadians will, for the first time every, buy and lease more than 2 million new vehicles in 2017.

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2016 SilveradoTHE SILVERADO'S BOXY STYLING IS SUBTLY UPDATED FOR 2016,
MAKING IT A HANDSOME BEAST.

By Lesley Wimbush, Driving.ca - When you live in the city, it's easy to dismiss pickup trucks as being over-compensating gas-guzzlers, hauling air while hogging most of the road.  To truly appreciate the beauty of a good truck, you've got to experience it in its own environment.  And there's nothing like 10 kilometres of unplowed cottage road to make a four-wheel-drive truck seem as attractive as any premium German sedan.

The unpaved road north of Apsley would've been completely impassable in any but the toughest of all-wheel-drive cars.  Heavy snow through the forest gave way to patches of yellow mud in the clearings, warmed by the sun and thick as gumbo.  Treacherously greasy, it sucked and pulled the wheels of the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado, skewing us sideways down the slick incline.

When we ground to a halt, bogged down to the running boards and flanks spackled with muck flung by the spinning rear wheels, it was time for intervention.  Switching to 4-LO engages the heavy duty locking differential, and with power driving all four wheels, we easily shook free of the mud and continued on our way.

Canadians bought more than 46,000 Chevrolet Silverados last year; it's one of the most important products in GM's portfolio.  For 2016, the Silverado receives a couple of important changes to help it stay competitive in a field that includes a fully revised Ford F150 and the Ram 1500, with its popular coil spring and air suspension.

The Silverado's boxy styling is subtly updated for 2016, with new trim-specific grilles and LED head and tail lamps, while upper trim levels get segment-first LED fog lights.  Divided by a strong, horizontal bar, the truck's new face appears wider, and a revised hood gives it a stronger, more muscular look.

Perhaps more important than the external changes is the increased use of GM's eight-speed transmission, which is now available with the 5.3-litre V-8 engine on LTZ and High Country models.  It's a big improvement on the six-speed, providing quicker torque delivery, faster acceleration and better fuel economy.

The Silverado is a handsome beast, particularly in my tester's LTZ trim, which eschews chrome bling for a more subtle look.  Running boards finish off the look nicely, and corner bumper steps provide easy access to the bed.  I particularly liked the "EZ Lift and Lower" tailgate, which can be locked remotely, keeping cargo safe beneath the tri-fold tonneau cover.

The cabin retains its blunt and chunky design, with most of the changes centred on technology.  The crew cab is an enormously roomy environment, and even the rear seats have enough legroom for a pro basketball player.  The flat and boxy centre console has plenty of cubby space, and a gigantic storage area beneath the armrest.

The eight-inch colour touch screen now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and there's on-board 4G LTE Wi-Fi and wireless cellphone charging.

Safety systems include adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, driver's safety-alert seat, and a rear-view camera.  There's a heated steering wheel and front seats are heated and ventilated.  Surprisingly, given the amount of sophisticated technology, there's no push-button start, even in this upper-trim-level tester.

Although you never forget that you're driving a very large vehicle, the Silverado is well mannered and very quiet, with a minimum of road and wind noise.  While the lane-keeping assist initially feels rather intrusive, it doesn't take long to appreciate its ability to keep the big truck within the lines.  Combined with adaptive cruise control, it takes a lot of stress out of commuting in congested traffic.

The big V-8 features active cylinder management, which shuts down four cylinders during light load for better fuel efficiency.  It's smooth and seamless, with only the TFT display informing you that the truck is operating as a four-cylinder.

Steering is very good, with the right amount of heft for a vehicle this size, but having separate adjusters for tilting and telescoping the column is confusing.

Apple CarPlay is literally plug and play; tethering an iPhone instantly launches the application and it's ready for hands-free messaging.  But the Bluetooth system had the annoying habit of occasionally interrupting the audio system to make contact with my phone.

The Silverado Z71 is a formidable off-roader, with Rancho shocks, transfer case, locking differential and underbody shields.  Equipped with the Max Tow package, it's capable of towing up to 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms), which is less than the F-150's 12,200 lbs. (5,535 kg) but just over the Ram 1500's max rating of 10,800 lbs (4,900 kg).

Although the Silverado is up against some stiff competition with the Ram's cushy, self-leveling air suspension, and the F-150's slick new trailer backing-up technology, there's a lot to like about this smooth and capable pickup truck.

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