Low gas prices fuel sales of trucks and luxury crossovers

Some things are true in life, like when gas prices fall, people start buying big trucks again. So since Canadians have been paying less than a dollar a litre for fuel, Canadians have responded by buying pickups in incredible numbers.

It comes as no surprise that the Ford F-150 remains the sales king, especially now that the aluminum-intensive 2015 model is becoming more readily available on dealer lots. The company sold 25,782 of its F-Series family through three months of the year, an almost six percent increase over last year. The V6 and EcoBoost-heavy lineup, which Ford promises drinks less fuel than its rivals, will almost certainly take yet another annual sales crown in nine months’ time.

But if there’s anyone feeling bullish about knocking Ford off, it’s the folks at Ram. Their group of regular and heavy-duty pickups sold 20,647 units, a 12.4-percent increase year over year and good for second overall. There’s plenty of appeal, too, with everything from a class-exclusive light-duty diesel option and efficient gas V6 to the Hemi V8s and finally the “big-six” turbodiesel monsters in the 2500 and 3500.

Third place overall, and first in cars, goes to the familiar Honda Civic, although not without some trouble. The Civic Sedan and Coupe managed 10,458 sales in Q1, but with everyone apparently buying pickups, that was a big 15.7-percent drop from 2014. While both were heavily refreshed in the last two years, there is an all-new Civic coming as a 2016 model that was previewed at New York in concept form, including a real turbocharged Type-R for the first time too.

The GMC Sierra picked up a number of places, and nearly turfed the Civic out of third place with 10,386 sales, a huge 14.2-percent increase from last year. The same story and reasoning behind the other strong performances: cheap fuel, low interest rates and strong manufacturer incentives across the board. Sierra also offers its line of luxed-up Denali models, made even more popular now that Cadillac no longer makes the Escalade EXT.

Since Canadians still appreciate our minivans, it’s important that the minivan originator – and one still built exclusively in Canada – continues doing well. The Dodge Grand Caravan retains its status as an in-class bestseller, but also fifth-place overall in Q1 with 10,257 sold. The value of such a large hunk of metal with a standard class-leading V6 for power, a modern transmission and a regularly discounted sub-$20,000 price is easy to understand.

While several of Hyundai’s models are starting to look their age, the Elantra still looks amazingly fresh. Although better to drive and thriftier since a recent refresh, the overall shape certainly keeps pulling in customers, enough for sixth place overall this year. However, with only 9,556, sold since January, that total is down by nearly eight percent. Could be the sign of impending cracks in a compact favourite?

The seventh-placed Toyota Corolla appears to be poised to take advantage of any sign of weakness from the Hyundai. While its 9,027 sales in Q1 were down marginally from 2014, that’s only a 1.5-percent reduction, certainly the smallest loss of any car in the top 20. As an aside, the 13th-placed Volkswagen Jetta, 19th-placed Golf and 27th-placed Nissan Sentra were the only cars in the top 30 to actually gain sales year over year…

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