At the beginning of each calendar year, automobile manufacturers release the previous year’s sales figures in varying detail levels, accompanied by press releases that highlight the high notes.
Honda, for example, cited the Civic’s continued leadership. “The Honda Civic remained Canada’s favourite passenger car for the twenty-first consecutive year,” Honda Canada said. Of course, Honda didn’t draw any extra attention to the company’s low-volume pickup, sales of which precipitously declined. Similarly, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles drew attention to an all-time Wrangler sales record, but didn’t even mention its Fiat namesake brand, which recorded cataclysmic declines in 2018.
But when automakers decide not to draw attention to the poor performers, we step in to fill the void. Canada’s auto industry reported its first year-over-year sales decline since 2009, a remarkable streak that produced record sales of more than 2 million units in 2017. In failing to live up to 2017’s pace, however, the industry was sure to have its fair share of losers. Even in a booming and bullish year, there are losers in the cutthroat automotive industry.
2018’s three per cent sales decline was caused in part by a full-size pickup truck slide and decreased minivan demand. But at the heart of the shrinking market was yet another sharp decline in passenger car sales, which now account for just 29 per cent of the overall new vehicle market. Not surprisingly then, eight of Canada’s ten lowest-volume vehicles in 2018 were cars.
To determine the worst-selling vehicles in Canada in 2018, we narrowed the list of qualified vehicles to include nameplates with base prices under $100,000, excluded vehicles that weren’t on sale at the beginning of 2018, excluded two-seaters, and removed vehicles that had received their official cancellation papers. On the whole, these rules eliminate most vehicles that are automatically destined to be low-volume products in Canada.
10. Jaguar XF: 173, down 65 per cent
In 2017, Jaguar no longer resembled a brand that had only recently been buried alive. Jaguar was alive, Jaguar was surging, Jaguar was on fire. In just two years, Jaguar Canada had more than tripled its volume. That pace, however, was not maintained in 2018, as Jaguar took a six per cent hit caused largely by a harsh passenger-car decline. In Jaguar’s four-pronged car lineup, no car tumbled harder or further than the midsize XF, which hit an all-time Canadian sales low.
9. Lincoln MKT: 157, down 22 per cent
We’ve all had that one nearly empty bottle of post-party pop in the fridge that sits on the bottom shelf for weeks. Spouses use it as a test, kids wonder why their parents don’t pour it out, visiting mothers-in-law are baffled by it. The Lincoln MKT is the automotive equivalent. Ford has allowed it to remain on the shelf: outdated, antiquated, unappealing even at its peak, and lacking any sort of fizz. And yet 2018 wasn’t the MKT’s worst year to date – 2016 was even worse.
8. Audi A8: 145, down 22 per cent
Only barely sneaking in under the $100,000 base MSRP barrier, the Audi A8 is one of a handful of full-size premium sedans that fight a losing battle against the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The big Benz sells seven times more often than the flagship Audi sedan. Fortunately for Audi Canada, which saw A8 sales fall to a nine-year low, the A8’s volume is being replaced by other high-end Audis. The Q7 and Q8 SUVs contributed 4,894 total sales in 2018.
7. Kia Cadenza: 83, down 33 per cent
The modern automotive era is tough on sedans. It’s tougher still on big sedans. And it may be toughest on big sedans most consumers haven’t heard of. In a segment packed with (increasingly unpopular) established nameplates such as Impala, Taurus, and Charger, there’s no room for a Cadenza. Fewer than 1,000 have been sold across Canada since 2013. For perspective, Kia Canada sells roughly 1,300 Sorentos per month. Moreover, 2018 was the Cadenza’s worst year yet.
6. Genesis G90: 81, down 12 per cent
With no conventional dealer network, with scant chance of success in a historically German-dominated segment, and with the marque’s attention largely diverted to the new G70, sales of the Genesis G90 dropped from very low to even lower. In a previous life, the G90 was known as the Hyundai Equus. At its peak, that car attracted 116 annual customers. Only 6 per cent of Genesis customers choose the flagship model.
5. Fiat 500X: 79, down 91 per cent
Fiat got off to a roaring start when the diminutive 500 appeared on Canadian shores in 2011. Nearly 8,500 500s were sold in 2012. As demand for the 500 tailed off, demand for its partners failed to take off. To be fair, 500X sales were rising, albeit gradually, at relatively low levels below 900 units per year. But in 2018, the 500X, a small crossover rival for the Mazda CX-3 and Buick Encore, lost nine-tenths of its volume.
4. Acura RLX: 64, up 8 per cent
Unlike every other vehicle on this list of Canada’s 10 worst-selling vehicles, sales of the Acura RLX actually increased year-over-year in 2018. But the forgotten and forgettable RLX sedan, Acura’s most costly, posted only the most modest of increases – five extra units – that barely registers on Acura’s sales charts.
3. Infiniti Q70: 53, down 20 per cent
Like the Acura RLX, the Infiniti Q70 is supposed to be a rival for vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series. Like the RLX, the Q70 is not. Canadian luxury sedan shoppers simply are not, at any statistically meaningful level, cross-shopping any vehicle with Infiniti’s top-tier sedan. 2018 ended as the Q70’s worst full year in its history, going back to the days of its M45 successor.
2. Fiat 500L: 13, down 69 per cent
For reasons that remain unclear, the ungainly Fiat 500L was propelled into the market with no critical acclaim and persisted in the market despite poor reliability ratings and plunging demand. 500L volume tumbled 84 per cent in 2016 before nosediving further in 2017 and virtually disappearing in 2018. The Kia Soul, for the sake of comparison, produces 30 Canadian sales per day.
1. Kia K900: 4, down 43 per cent
Given the K900’s history as a total sales flop, it’s difficult to blame 2018’s 43 per cent decline on the fact that consumers might be waiting for the all-new 2019 model. That’s the sort of event that occurs with in-demand vehicles like the Ford Mustang or BMW 3 Series. Even in its best year, only 36 K900s were sold. Fewer than 100 K900s have been sold since 2014.
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