Driving By Numbers: Canada's top 10 vehicle segments in 2021's first-half
SUVs are still popular, but there's a shift in popular segments for consumers purchasing new cars
During the first-half of 2021, Canadian consumers were buying and leasing an average of 145,000 vehicles per month.
It sounds like a lot. And it is, compared to 2020, when the monthly average dropped perilously close to five-digit territory. But outright volume describes only one facet of the Canadian auto industry’s recovery. The way in which Canada’s buying habits are changing — or more particularly, the way in which tastes are evolving — tells us much more about the direction our market’s going.
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Driving By Numbers: Canada's top 10 vehicle segments in 2021's first-half Back to video
Only by the narrowest of margins, for instance, are minivans even among the 10 most popular auto segments in Canada — in Q2, minivans actually ranked 11th. You won’t find midsize cars among Canada’s leading segments. And what about subcompact cars? There’s nothing more affordable, yet Canada’s full-size SUV segment, the Suburbans and Expeditions of the world — now outsell subcompact cars by a 17 per cent margin.
In 2021, change comes at you fast. Only one year ago, subcompacts outsold those full-size SUVs by more than 2-to-1.
SUVs/crossovers now account for 56 per cent of all Canadian auto sales, so it will come as no surprise to anyone that specific utility vehicle segments are all over this list of Canada’s top 10 segments. There are six individual SUV/CUV categories represented.
Driving By Numbers: Canada's 10 best-selling SUVs and crossovers in 2021's first-half
Driving By Numbers: Canada's 10 best-selling vehicles in 2021's first six months
Passenger cars, on the other hand, are quickly becoming rare beasts. Collectively, across all segments, they now account for less than one-fifth of the overall market, scarcely more than the low-inventory full-size pickup sector.
Perhaps now more than ever, these market share figures are subject to change. The microchip-derived supply constraints plaguing the industry require that every figure be taken with a grain of salt. Yet with the duration of those constraints forecasted to extend well into next year, if not interminably, 2021’s first-half may simply be an accurate foretaste.
10. Minivans: 2.2 per cent market share
Let’s be fair for a moment. It’s all but impossible to get your hands on a Kia Carnival or Honda Odyssey. The competition isn’t much better off. But would it matter? Minivans have been in steady decline for a generation. Prior to the last great recession, in 2007, Canadians drove away from dealers in 145,517 new minivans, equal to 8.8 per cent of the market. At 2021’s first-half pace, there won’t even be 40,000 minivans sold in 2021.
9. Midsize pickup trucks: 2.7 per cent market share
Rapidly regaining popularity thanks to new competitors, rising full-size costs, and the unbelievable popularity of established pickups, Canada’s midsize truck segment nevertheless lost some ground in early 2021. There simply aren’t enough trucks, including the total first-half absence of the transitioning Nissan Frontier. At 23,470 sales in only six months, however, times have definitely changed. In the entire 2014 calendar year, there were only 15,621 total sales in the segment.
8. Large luxury SUVs: 2.8 per cent market share
Compared with 2020, the volume produced by Canada’s large luxury SUV/crossover category was up 52 per cent to just under 25,000 units in 2021’s first-half. Big movers included the Volvo XC90 (up 69 per cent), Audi Q7 (up 75 percent), Cadillac XT6 (up 80 per cent), and Acura MDX (up 148 per cent). It’s a sprawling, money-making category where the contenders have all taken over from vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Audi A6.
7. Compact luxury SUVs: 3.1 per cent market share
When BMW released the first-generation X3 in 2003, there was little expectation that it would spawn a category that would become Canada’s seventh-most-popular within two decades. Mind you, the X3 isn’t Canada’s favourite. The Audi Q5, averaging nearly 1,000 sales per month in 2021’s first-half, generates more than one-fifth of the category’s volume. At nearly 27,000 sales between January and June, these small luxury SUVs/crossovers bring in slightly more than one out of every 20 utility vehicles sold in Canada.
6. Midsize SUVs: 4.1 per cent market share
From long-running nameplates such as the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano to recently reincarnated models such as the Honda Passport, Chevrolet Blazer, and Toyota Venza, midsize SUVs and crossovers are big business in Canada. Despite a relatively small number of offerings, the segment produced just under 36,000 sales in 2021’s first-half. Granted, the year-over-year growth rate of 22 per cent wasn’t enough to stop the category from losing market share, albeit less than half a percentage point, compared with 2020’s first-half.
5. Large SUVs: 6.5 per cent market share
Not to be confused with full-size SUVs like the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe, Canada’s large SUV/crossover category drove its market share up by a point over the last year thanks to the success of leaders such as the Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer. These are lengthy three-row vehicles, and they’re becoming markedly more popular as Canadians leave minivans in the past. The Highlander and Explorer account for one-third of the nearly 57,000 large SUVs sold in Canada in 2021’s first six months.
4. Compact cars: 10.0 per cent market share
Long the top dog in Canada’s new vehicle market, compact cars have suffered serious degradation not just over the last decade but over the last year alone. Likely to fall below 10 per cent market share in 2022, if not before, compact cars produced only 86,000 sales in 2021’s first six months. Rewind 10 years: in 2012, 22 per cent of the vehicles sold in Canada were compact cars such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Hyundai Elantra.
3. Subcompact crossovers: 11.4 per cent market share
Not a single one of the top-selling automotive segments in Canada are growing at a quicker rate than subcompact crossovers. The sector is definitely boosted by the huge volume of top sellers such as the Hyundai Kona and Subaru Crosstrek, but there’s another big factor: automakers continue to launch new subcompact utility nameplates. Newer additions such as the Chevrolet Trailblazer and Kia Seltos — released just before the pandemic struck — contribute over 2,000 units per month. Fledgling only a decade ago, subcompact crossovers are now averaging nearly 17,000 total sales per month in Canada.
2. Full-size pickup trucks: 19.1 per cent market share
With near nonexistent inventory, full-size pickups remain huge volume vehicles based simply on Detroit’s ability to fulfill orders. But after claiming more than 22 per cent of the market in the first-half of 2020, full-size pickup sales ran directly into microchip headwinds that seem to be affecting the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Ram 1500 more than any other vehicle lines. 146,063 full-size trucks were sold in the first six months of 2021, but that wasn’t nearly enough to keep pace with the market’s growth.
1. Compact SUVs: 21.1 per cent market share
In the span of one year, the Toyota RAV4-led compact SUV segment has entirely swapped positions with full-size pickup trucks, trading almost exactly three percentage points of market share. Sales of these small SUVs — RAV4s, Honda CR-Vs, Nissan Rogues, Mazda CX-5s, etc. — are up 54 per cent to more than 180,000 units in 2021’s first-half.