Where Americans love their cars, Canadians barely tolerate them

Michael Small
Yahoo! Autos Canada
Is this the future of Ford's storied F-150, North America's most popular vehicle? [Click to take a closer look.]
Is this the future of Ford's storied F-150, North America's most popular vehicle? [Click to take a closer look.]

Canadians and Americans had a healthy appetite for new cars in 2012, but a look at the 10 bestsellers north and south of the 49th reveals an interesting gap in preference.

It was encouraging year for car sales here in Canada, with 1.676 million vehicles zooming off the lot, the highest number of sales since 2002 and encouraging sign for auto manufacturers after a dismal 2011. Our neighbours to the south had a similarly robust year for auto sales, buying up 14,491,873 vehicles and increasing on 2011 numbers by 14%.

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But when it comes to which cars people want to drive, like most neighbours, Canadians and Americans don’t always see eye to eye.

Things start off harmoniously enough: everyone agrees on the number one vehicle; the Ford F-Series is the clear-cut favourite for both countries. But after that, common tastes begin to differ.

For instance, the Chevy Silverado was the second most popular vehicle in the States, while barely sneaking onto the list with the 10th spot in Canada. The Dodge Ram, the second best-selling vehicle in Canada, ranks only seventh in the USA. The third best-seller for America, the Toyota Camry, doesn’t even crack the Canadian Top 10.

Six vehicles make Top 10 sellers list in both countries: the Ford F-Series, Dodge Ram, Honda Civic, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Silverado, and Toyota Corolla.

The Hyundai Elantra, GMC Sierra, Mazda3, Dodge Caravan round out the Canadian list while the  Honda CR-V, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry placed for the red, white and blue.

So why the difference? Dennis DesRosiers, of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, says it’s all about market preference. Canada is primarily a compact/sedan market, while the USA is a sedan/compact market, followed by full frame vehicles (pick up trucks). That’s why you’ll see a sedan like the Toyota Camry sell so well in America, but be a middle-of-the-pack performer in Canada.

DesRosiers says there are two “critical” components that causes the market to be this way: economics – Canada is a lower income, higher tax country than the US – and our attitudes about cars in general.

“Americans have a true love affair with their vehicles, while Canadians generally view vehicles as a necessary evil, something that will get them from point A to B.”

This attitude means Canadians prefer to spend less on smaller, less expensive compact vehicles, while Americans pursue more luxurious rides that are more in line with their dream vehicle. This same attitude is why Canadians will owna  car for 7-8 years, while Americans look for something new after 4 or 5.

For the full list of best-sellers in each country see the chart below.

    Canada    United States
1    Ford F-Series (106,358)    Ford F-Series (645,316)
2    Dodge RAM (67,634)    Chevrolet Silverado (418,312)
3    Honda Civic (64, 962)    Toyota Camry (404,886)
4    Dodge Caravan (51,552)    Honda Accord (331,872)
5    Hyundai Elantra (50,952)    Honda Civic (317,909)
6    Ford Escape (44,699)    Nissan Altima (302,934)
7    GMC Sierra (42,712)    Dodge Ram (293, 363)
8    Toyota Carolla (40,906)    Toyota Carolla (290,947)
9    Mazda3 (39,395)    Honda CR-V (281,652)
10    Chevrolet Silverado (35,953)    Ford Escape (261,008)


1)    Ford F-Series (106,358)                        
2)    RAM Pickup (67,634)
3)    Honda Civic (64, 962)
4)    Dodge Caravan (51,552)
5)    Hyundai Elantra (50,952)
6)    Ford Escape (44,699)
7)    GMC Sierra (42,712)
8)    Toyota Carolla (40,906)
9)    Mazda3 (39,395)
10)    Chevrolet Silverado (35,953)

1)    Ford F-Series (645,316)
2)    Chevrolet Silverado (418,312)
3)    Toyota Camry (404,886)
4)    Honda Accord (331,872)
5)    Honda Civic (317,909)
6)    Nissan Altima (302,934)
7)    Dodge Ram (293, 363)
8)    Toyota Carolla (290,947)
9)    Honda CR-V (281,652)
10)     Ford Escape (261,008)