Canadian passenger car sales are falling, not unpredictably, as SUVs and crossovers continue to earn an increasingly large chunk of market share.
And yet at the top of the passenger car leaderboard, Canada’s two best-selling cars are selling at a record pace, with no small amount of help from new hatchback body styles.
Bucking the Canadian, North American, and global anti-car trend most distinctlyÂ is the Honda Civic, Canada’s best-selling car in each of the last 19 years.
Indeed, so strong have Civic sales been through the first-quarter of 2017, we’re ready to make a projection. Make it a confirmation. We’ll say it with certainty.Â Honda Canada’s Civic streak will reach a full two decades, twenty years, as the Civic becomes Canada’s best-selling car in 2017.
The Civic’s lead is already insurmountable.
Bolstered by surging industry-wide new vehicle demandÂ in a record first-quarter of 2017, Honda Civic sales have jumped 23 percent, year-over-year, even as passenger car volume slid nearly 3 percent. Honda’s overall March performance, 17,392 sales, was a record monthly result for the division. 47 percent of that volume was Civic-derived.
The mostly Canadian-built Civic lineup isn’t just important to the Honda brand and its dealers. Canada’s passenger car market as a whole relied on the Civic for 12 percent of its volume in 2017 Q1, 13 percent in March.
So the Civic is strong, sure, but it’s still only mid-April. How can weÂ know that the Civic has already locked up the best seller’s crown for a 20th consecutive year? How do we know that Honda will continue a streak that began in 1998, when Wayne Gretzky was still playing hockey?
We don’t. Technically, we don’t.
An unforeseen stop-sale order because of a faulty left phalange could send Civic volume spiralling. A maple syrup shortage could incite huge Jeep Wrangler demand as everyone heads for the forest in search of the last few drops. A joint Justin Bieber/CÃ©line Dion concert in Winnipeg could have all CanadiansÂ piling into new Dodge Grand Caravans for the cross-country journey. Canadians could spend all their money on Frontier tuques, leaving no leftover spare change for a 60-month Civic DX lease.
But that’s unlikely.
The Honda Civic has already built up a 4,622-unit lead over the similarly surging Toyota Corolla, which has earned 10 percent of its volume from the former Scion iM that’s now a Toyota Corolla iM. (Corolla sedan volume is rising, as well.)
A 4,622-unit lead in the small Canadian market is not the same as a 4,622-unit lead for, say, the Toyota Camry over the Nissan Altima south of the border. This is a 43-percent margin.
To undo that gap, the Corolla will need to outsell the Civic by a 10-percent margin in each of 2017’s remaining nine months. That’s quite an ask given that in the most recent month the Civic outsold the Corolla by a 70-percent margin.
Even if Civic sales growth stalls and volume over the course of 2017’s remaining three-quarters is flat, the Corolla would need to grow its volume 52 percent, year-over-year, during the rest of 2017.
Corolla sales are up 29 percent so far this year.
Naturally, the chances for other rivals are even slimmer. The Hyundai Elantra has been the Civic’s closest challenger in each of the last six years, but Elantra volume is down 30 percent this year. While the Civic and Corolla are on track for best-ever years, the Elantra is on track for an eight-year low. The Mazda 3? Sales of the 3 are on the rise compared with a disastrous 2016, but the Civic is currently outselling the Mazda by more than 2.5-to-1. The Civic is outselling the Chevrolet Cruze, Volkswagen Golf, and Nissan SentraÂ combined; the seven best-selling midsize carsÂ combined.
We’ve only seen three months’ worth of sales results, but the fat lady is done warming up her vocal chords.
She’s walking on stage.
Timothy Cain is the founder ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcarÂ and on Facebook.