Even though this year car sales went on a slow start in North America, the results of the first month are better than expected. Total deliveries reached nearly 1.37 million vehicles with almost 1.15 million units sold in the U.S. alone.
Mexico recorded the first increase in deliveries in more than a year and a half, largely due to extraordinary situations, such as the entry into force of a fiscal stimulus for the northern border.
Meanwhile, the decline in sales in the U.S. market was much lower than expected despite the government shutdown and severe weather in the Midwest that kept thousands of consumers away from car dealerships.
Last January, sales of new cars in Mexico increased 1.9% to 111,212 units, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi).
Car dealers expected the year to start with negative results, but sales were surprisingly better than expected.
Guillermo Rosales, deputy general director of the Mexican Association of Auto Dealers (AMDA for its acronym in Spanish), said that a factor that influenced the result was the delayed sales among consumers in the northern border of the country, who did not buy vehicles during the last months of 2018 pending the fiscal stimulus program announced by the new government to reduce the tax rate of the Added Value from 16% to 8%.
Despite a Government shutdown that lasted almost the entire month and severe weather in the Midwest that kept consumers away from auto dealerships, light vehicle sales in the U.S. declined just 1% in January, according to estimates from AutoNews.
Figures analyzed by the automotive website revealed that during the past month, higher than expected sales of fleet vehicles offset the low volume of deliveries in the retail market.
Total sales in the U.S. were of 1,146,972 units, down from 1,159,119 vehicles sold during the same month of 2018.
The U.S. represents the main destination for Mexico automotive exports. Official data states that U.S. auto imports from Mexico totaled 2,566,701 units in 2018, representing a 9.9% rise versus 2017 figures and accounting for 74.4% of total shipments. The market share of Mexico-made vehicles in the U.S. was of 14.8% in 2018.
Auto sales in Canada fell 7.3% in January to 108,774 vehicles compared with 117,281 units for the first month of 2018, marking the eleventh straight month of year-on-year sales drop.
Passenger car sales declined 13.7%, while light truck sales, which include pickup trucks, minivans, crossovers and SUVs, had a 4.9% decline from last year, according to data from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (PDF).
Ford Motor Co. was the top seller with 16,154 units, figure that represented a 1.9% decline from last year.
General Motors, which has been facing criticism from Canadian auto workers union Unifor for its plans to shut the Oshawa, Ont. assembly plant, saw a 14.8% decline from last year to fall in second place.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles slipped from first place to third after a 20.1.% drop. Toyota, fourth best-selling brand, saw its sales climb 14.4%.
Canada represents the second most important destination for Mexican auto exports with 248,557 vehicles in 2018, according to official data. This figure is actually 7% lower compared to the previous year and represents a 7.2% share of total Mexican auto exports, down from 8.2% in 2017.