Last year, Honda sales were walloped by a double whammy. The first blow in a devastating one-two punch was delivered by the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan early in the year. That shock was followed up by extensive flooding later in the year in Thailand.
The earthquake and tsunami effected Honda's production more than any other Japan-based automaker. The flooding in Thailand put the kibosh on the electrical parts needed for many of the automakers auto features.
"We had the buyers," says Kent Forman (Forman Honda in Brandon), "but we didn't have the product."
Well, judging by the early returns this year, Honda has bounced back with a vengeance and bounded back to the top of the industry. According to comparative sales figures for January as compiled by Canadian Auto World, Honda Canada sold 5,509 cars in January, an almost 250 per cent increase from the 1,576 the manufacturer sold in Canada in January, 2011. That January, 2012, car sales figure puts Honda Canada in first place in car sales, just slightly ahead of Toyota (which itself registered a healthy 15% increase) and Hyundai (which showed an 18 per cent increase in car sales).
Of course, the big sellers for Honda were the ever reliable Civic and CR-V, the models that Crown Honda new car sales manager Kabeir Dilawri describes as the dealers' "bread and butter" models. Civic sales across Canada increased by a phenomenal 332.5 per cent in January over January 2011, good for second place in total sales for any model sold in Canada in the month. (The Ford F-series was Canada's best selling vehicle by a goodly margin.) The Civic accounted for about 90 per cent of Honda car sales.
"Last year was the 14th consecutive year that the Civic was Canada's top-selling passenger car," says Doug Kreutzer, general manager of Steinbach's Harvest Honda. "We are looking forward to continuing the streak this year."
The CR-V also shot back into the top 10 best-selling vehicles in Canada (in tenth place) with 1,930 models sold across the country in January. That represents a 126.8 per cent increase in sales over January, 2011.
"We began to see a noticeable growth in our sales late last year," says Forman. "December sales were a little stronger and our February numbers were quite a bit higher."
Dilawri reports Crown Honda's February sales this year were 243 vehicles, about one-third higher than sales last February.
Kreutzer notes that Honda dealers are expecting strong demand for both the remodeled 2013 CR-V that arrived in Manitoba in February and the 2013 Accord that will be coming in the fall.
Chrysler dealers also have much to cheer about in the January sales numbers. Sales of Chrysler cars jumped by 125 per cent, closing with 2,206 units sold across Canada in January as compared to 978 the year before. Combined with continuing strong truck sales, Chrysler Canada finished in top spot overall for motor vehicle sales in Canada in January with total sales of 16,478 units sold.
Dominic Sacco, Winnipeg Dodge Chrysler's general sales manager, talks about a "dramatic increase" in sales, while Steve Dennis, Waverley Chrysler Dodge Jeep's dealer principal, speaks of large increases overall in sales.
"Our truck sales alone are up 10-15 per cent," Dennis says. "And our Jeep line has really taken off, especially the Wrangler."
Dennis credits Chrysler's strong sales increases to the manufacturer's all-new product lineup. "Over the past 18 months, Chrysler has introduced 16 new or redesigned models," he says. "As a result, we are attracting a lot of new buyers."
Sacco adds that his dealership already has a number of standing orders -- sight unseen -- for Chrysler's new 2013 Dodge Dart which is expected to arrive in April or May.
In rural Manitoba, Chrysler truck sales remain strong, reports Blake Mansur, new-car sales manager at Portage Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Portage la Prairie. "Overall, our sales have picked up really well," he says.