Manitoba bucks national car sales trend

Auto industry to undergo shakeups

Used cars are still selling well overall, but American cars are rapidly losing popularity. Antoinette Dyksman

Unthreatened by current economic predictions, Bree-Ann Carruthers and her husband took the plunge and decided to buy a car.

They spent a lot of time researching and thinking about what to get, eventually deciding upon a 2003 Volkswagen Golf.

“We didn’t see any point in buying a new car because they depreciate so quickly,” the Wolseley resident said. “Price wise, we were not in a financial situation to buy new.”

Like the majority of Canadians, Carruthers and her husband are rejecting new cars for used models. Statistics Canada recently reported a seven per cent drop in new motor vehicles sales in November 2008 compared to October of the same year, from 138,816 to 129,044.

Shirley Canty, executive director of the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association (MMDA) remains optimistic, saying the big picture must be looked at.

“What applies to Canada and the United States does not necessarily apply here,” said Canty

Statistics Canada reported a 1.5 per cent decline in new motor vehicle sales for the province from November 2007 to November 2008.

Winnipeg is an anomaly compared to the rest of the country.

Wayne Gelfant, Brent McNaught Automotive Centre

“Winnipeg is an anomaly compared to the rest of the country,” said Wayne Gelfant, interim manager at the Brent McNaught Automotive Centre on Portage Avenue, which sells used cars.

Things are looking good for used cars. Gelfant cites a 4.3 per cent increase in used car sales in the city from November 2007 to November 2008

“Manitoba has the strongest market for General Motors in the world,” Gelfant said

Kirk, sales manager at Auto Haus in Winnipeg, which deals in both new and used cars, said his sales for both types of cars are up. He requested his last name not be used.

“November was flat but December is up 40 per cent compared to the previous year,” Kirk said. “Volkswagen sold over 40,000 units for the first time ever in 2008.”

Kirk notes one visible trend in vehicle purchases.

“People definitely prefer import over domestic vehicles,” he said.

Toyota recently became the world’s number one automaker, surpassing General Motors’ 70 year dominance.

Carruthers said gas mileage and reliability were important factors in their vehicle choice.

“We wanted to be cautious about our ecological footprint. After doing some research we found that foreign cars have a higher standard for fuel efficiency,” Carruthers said.

James Townsend, economics professor at the University of Winnipeg, said the Big Three in the North American automobile industry (Ford, GM and Chrysler) have been in trouble for quite some time.

“The industry is getting smaller, and the larger vehicles are being built here,” said Townsend. “There’s definitely going to be mergers.”

Last week, Chrysler and Italian automaker Fiat announced a merger.

Published in Volume 63, Number 18 of The Uniter (January 29, 2009)

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