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2010 a big year for all except Toyota

Published November 5, 2010


October’s figures are in for Canadian new car sales. And it looks like 2010 is turning out to be a better year for most automakers – except one.

Ford continues to lead second place General Motors on a year-to-date basis, selling 230,030 vehicles compared with 206,376 for GM.

In an industry that was overall up 1.4 per cent, combined Ford and Lincoln branded sales were up 8.1 per cent.

Ford is saying its October sales weren’t just based on selling large trucks. Compared with last year, sales of its cars and crossover utility vehicles rose 18 per cent while truck sales edged up just 5 per cent.

Chrysler, with sales up last month by 6 per cent, is locked in third place with 174,551 vehicles sold, mainly on the strength of its minivan and small truck sales.

Other mainstream automakers reporting large year-to-year gains in October were Mitsubishi (up 27.2 per cent), Volkswagen (21.5) and Audi (25.5).

One exception to all this good news is struggling Toyota Canada. So far this year, Canadians have purchased fewer Toyota-Lexus-Scion branded vehicles than the combined sales of Hyundai-Kia Motors, which now sits in fourth place overall behind Chrysler with 151,485 vehicles sold in Canada to the end of October.

Given the ongoing recall mess and the resulting hit on the automaker’s perceived edge in quality, combined Toyota Canada sales sit at only 150,119 units so far this year – down from 171,295 vehicles sold by this time in 2009.

Hyundai Kia Motors not only has sold more cars than Toyota-Lexus-Scion but it is also well ahead of such Japanese stalwarts as Honda-Acura and Nissan-Infiniti, which have sold 117,3180 and 72,218 vehicles, respectively, so far in 2010.

Cadillac confirms it will add smaller model for 2012-13

Now that Cadillac has filled out its mid-size CTS lineup with a sedan, wagon and new coupe, along with high-performance V models, General Motors’ luxury brand has confirmed that it will be adding a new, smaller model to its lineup.

Targeted at the likes of the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C Class, the compact, rear-drive Cadillac is expected to be called the ATS and arrive in showrooms in 2012 or early 2013, according to a report in Automotive News.

GM CEO Dan Akerson made the announcement at the automaker's Lansing, Mich., plant where the automaker plans to build the ATS. The factory currently assembles the CTS and the larger STS.

“The 3 series is BMW's biggest seller,” Jim Hall, director of industry analysis at 2953 Analytics, said in the report and added: Cadillac has “to go with the core of the market.”

The ATS and the upcoming XTS sedan are part of Cadillac's plan to position itself as a full-line luxury brand. The XTS will replace the aging DTS, will share a front-drive platform with the current Buick LaCrosse, and is set to debut in 2011.

A larger, rear-drive Cadillac that would rival the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series in pricing is planned later in the decade.

Premium pricing appears to turn people off buying EVs

Despite a recent report from an industry analyst suggesting that automakers’ predictions of new car buyers willing to plunk down their hard-earned cash for a new era of electric vehicles (EVs) as being too optimistic, car companies continue to roll out EV concepts at a hurried pace.

The latest is Honda. The Japanese automaker has announced that it will unveil a new EV concept at this month’s Los Angeles auto show.

Honda said it will also unveil a plug-in hybrid platform that “showcases the next-generation” of hybrids.

But according to a JD Power report, the expected premium pricing of any new EV or hybrid will more than likely be a stumbling block with customers.

For 2010, J.D. Power sees sales of gas-electric hybrids and battery-powered EVs to total 954,500 vehicles globally, or 2.2 per cent of the 44.7 million vehicles projected to be sold through the end of the year.

However, by 2020, the firm sees hybrid and EV sales only reaching 5.2 million units, or just 7.3 per cent of the 70.9 million passenger vehicles forecasted. And the issue seems to be the premium prices that zero- and low-emissions vehicles demand.

“Many consumers say they are concerned about the environment but when they find out how much a green vehicle is going to cost, their altruistic inclination declines considerably,” said John Humphrey, senior vice-president of automotive operations at J.D. Power.

The report says that among U.S. consumers who initially say they are interested in buying a hybrid vehicle, the number declines by about 50 per cent when they are told of the extra $5,000, on average, it would cost to acquire the vehicle.

Swedish brands Volvo and Saab press on, regardless

Abandoned by their long-standing Ford and General Motors parents in the aftermath of the auto industry’s massive restructuring caused by the current global economic downturn, Sweden’s Volvo and Saab brands are trying to re-establish themselves with new car buyers.

After several years of trying to flog the struggling brand, Ford finally sold off Volvo to China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group for US$1.5 billion.

Perhaps overzealous with his new Western toy, Li Shufu, founder and CEO of Zhejiang Geely, said following the purchase last August that Volvo would develop a full-size sedan to compete with BMW’s 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz’s S Class.

Currently, Volvo's top sedan is the $49,995 to $59,995 2011 S80 3.2. The lowest priced S Class is the $105,900 S400 Hybrid; BMW 7 Series pricing starts at $108,600 for the 750i.

But recently, new Volvo Cars CEO, Stefan Jacoby, said to Automotive News that “short- or mid-term, Volvo Cars does not have such a model in the product plan.”

The move up-market would mean a dramatic price increase.

Meanwhile, Saab continues to send signals that its existence going forward, despite new owners, isn’t a guarantee.

Bought from GM by Dutch supercar-maker Spyker, Saab lost $70 million last quarter and has burnt through $160 million in the first nine months of 2010.

Worst yet, Saab has cut its 2010 sales projections from 45,000 units to 30,000 units globally, or half of the 60,000 the automaker projected at the start of this year.

Despite this bad news, Saab still thinks it will sell 80,000 cars next year, and 120,000 in 2012.

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