If the Christmas decorations are appearing in stores, you know that automotive dealers with leftover sports cars are beginning to think less about clearing remaining inventory and more about where the vehicles will be stored all winter.
Sports car buying season in Canada generally lasts from early spring to late summer. The best-selling two-door in Canada, for example, generated seven times more sales volume in May than in October. The all-time global best-selling roadster, Mazda’s MX-5, last year produced 70 per cent of its annual Canadian volume in the middle six months of the year.
In a golden age for sporting automobiles, Canadian sales are trending of performance-oriented two-doors in a decidedly gloomier direction. Through the first 10 months of 2018, the 10 leading sports and performance coupes in the country are down 13 per cent, year-over-year. While it’s true that passenger car sales, on the whole, are falling, the decline encountered by sports cars is even sharper.
The definition of “sports car” always comes into play in such a discussion. The notion of a sports car category inhabited only by open-top two-doors that can be raced in a pinch is a definition held now only be the strictest interpreters of the rules. Increasingly, it’s becoming easier to see once brutish American muscle cars as genuine sports cars thanks to nimble responses; a knack for turning as well as accelerating. On the other end of the spectrum, one could argue that the dearth of manual transmissions among supercars and junior exotics has disqualified many a powerful car.
We’ve taken a fairly broad viewpoint to determine which 10 vehicles are the best-selling sports cars in Canada through the first 10 months of 2018, the bulk of the sports car buying season. We restricted the group to vehicles with two doors, excluded coupes such as the Honda Civic (sales of which go unreported as a distinct Civic entity) and rejected nameplates that originally launched in two-door coupe form, such as the Audi A5, but now generate a high percentage of their sales from four-door variants.
That leaves us with a group of 10 very desirable machines that account for roughly 4 per cent of Canada’s passenger car volume; 1 per cent of overall Canadian new vehicle sales, according to results from the Global Automakers of Canada. If nothing else, those figures should help everyone understand why more automakers don’t offer more performance cars. The market is small and shrinking, though. Moreover, it’s largely controlled by a handful of iconic Detroit nameplates at the top of the heap.
10. Subaru BRZ — 541, down 24 per cent
More surprising than the BRZ’s appearance on a best sellers’ list is the fact that it appears and its sibling, the Toyota 86 (née Scion FR-S) does not. Over the course of the twins’ first four years on the market, FR-S volume was nearly twice as strong as BRZ volume. Of late, however, Subaru has done a superior job of maintaining interest, albeit an obviously modest level of interest. Sales of the 86 totalled only 517 units in the first 10 months of 2018, down 69 per cent over the last half-decade.
9. Nissan 370Z — 652, down 23 per cent
Upon chopping the price of the 370Z for the 2016 model year, Nissan’s Canadian sales of the 370Z predictably shot through the roof. 2016 sales were more than twice as strong as Z volume was just two years prior. That trend continued in 2017, with Z volume climbing to a 13-year high. The sharp slide in 2018 is still likely to produce more than 740 Z sales by New Year’s Eve, more than the Z managed in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, or 2015.
8. Infiniti Q60 — 765, down 23 per cent
Canadian sales of Infiniti’s Q60 skyrocketed in 2017, surging 164 per cent from 2016 levels. That pace was too elevated to maintain, and Q60 volume has fallen by nearly a quarter in 2018. Some of the Q60’s competitors, including the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5, have expanded their ranges to include four-door variants. 4 Series volume is four times higher than Q60 sales; A5 sales are more than five times higher.
7. Mazda MX-5 Miata — 792, down 29 per cent
Is the sports car dead? In 2017, it certainly didn’t seem so. Mazda MX-5 sales in Canada shot up to the highest level in nine years. With a broader lineup than ever before and an improved Miata arriving for 2019, it may be possible that we could see another uptick next year if there are potential customers delaying their Miata acquisition until warmer weather mixes with the updated roadster.
6. Porsche 911 — 1,180, up 18 per cent
Globally, few automotive nameplates are more revered than the Porsche 911. Yet two-thirds of Porsche’s record-setting Canadian volume is now produced by its two utility vehicles, the top-selling Macan and Cayenne. Along with rising SUV sales, however, Porsche Canada is currently selling more 911s than at any point in history. 2017 was the first year ever in which more than 1,000 911s were sold in Canada. Porsche will likely surpass 2017’s 1,234-unit total in November.
5. Chevrolet Corvette — 1,423, down 25 per cent
From the recession onward to 2013, GM Canada was averaging fewer than 400 Corvette sales per year. Those figures skyrocketed with the launch of the seventh-generation Corvette. Canadian Corvette sales nearly quadrupled in 2014, and between 2014 and 2017, Corvette volume jumped 71 per cent. That lofty level, with more than 2,000 Corvette sales last year, is outlandishly high. But Corvette volume in 2018 is still expected to top 1,500 units.
BMW 2 Series — 1,666, up 4 per cent
If you’re of the mind that vehicles such as the X2, X5M, and new X7 suggest BMW is not the Ultimate Driving Machine automaker that it once was, the 2 Series will give you pause. In a previous generation it was marketed as the 1 Series, but regardless of what you call it, the 2 Series is on pace to potentially produce the small BMW’s best sales year since 2009. The numbers aren’t lofty – BMW sells four times more X3s than 2s – but the 2 Series is still successfully swimming against swift currents.
3. Dodge Challenger — 2,076, down 36 per cent
Hardly a nimble, agile, race-ready successor to the Lotus Seven, the Dodge Challenger is nevertheless very clearly a performance-directed coupe. You’ve heard of SRTs, Hellcats, and Demons. The constant hype surrounding the Challenger nameplate resulted in a new high of 3,422 total sales for the Dodge in calendar year 2017, but Challenger sales are down by more than a third in 2018, the sharpest drop of any vehicle in the list.
Chevrolet Camaro — 2,484, down 8 per cent
With the launch of an all-new Camaro still fresh, Canadian sales of Chevrolet’s more affordable performance car rose to a six-year high in 2017 before a notable decline in 2018. Regardless of how fast the Camaro moves the needle in one way or another, there’s no denying that the Chevrolet simply doesn’t hold a candle to the popularity of its chief rival. Canada’s top-selling sports/performance car is currently three times more common than the Camaro.
Ford Mustang — 7,539, down 5 per cent
Though the Ford is in no danger of losing its long-held crown as the top-selling performance car in Canada, Mustang sales aren’t entirely out of sync with its overall category. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, as the growth that the Mustang sustained over the last half-decade couldn’t really be sustainable in the long-term. Canadian Mustang sales in 2017 hit an 11-year high. With the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, Taurus, and C-Max soon to depart, the weight of Ford’s North American passenger car hopes will rise and fall with the Mustang.
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