Half-tons reign supreme in Northwest Territories

Half-tons reign supreme in Northwest Territories
Aurora Ford expects the 2016 F-150 to continue to lead its auto sales this year.Photo courtesy of Aurora Ford.

With the price of gas at seven-year lows, the top-selling vehicles North of 60 seem to have no chance of releasing their hold on the market.

With 1.8 million units sold, new vehicle sales across Canada saw a record-setting rebound in 2015 according to recently released data, and 2016 is expected to be strong as well. Industry expert Dennis DesRosiers said low interest rates and falling gas prices drove the increase and light trucks carried the load, making up 62 per cent of the new vehicle market, an 8.8 per cent increase over 2014.

Falling in line with that trend, pickup trucks, specifically four-wheel drive capable half-tons, are easily the top sellers for a number of Northern dealers the Journal contacted last week.
“Definitely the F-150 is our number one selling vehicle, it’s not even close to anything else,” Aurora Ford Hay River general manager Donalee Jungkind said. “It’s popular because it is so versatile, with all that storage and room for passengers. It handles well on the highway and it’s good on fuel.”

At YK Chrysler, the number is 1500, as in Dodge’s half-ton pickup, also rampantly popular. The Jeep brand can be spotted in all corners of the capital as well, according to the dealership’s advertising and marketing manager, Chad Malouin. He said he drives a 2015 two-door Wrangler with 33-inch mudders himself.

He said the Ram 1500, which won the Canadian Truck Kings real-world fuel economy test for 2016 models (for the EcoDiesel edition) is a “huge” seller, followed by the heavier 2500.

“There is a new standard across the North with people getting a four-by-four vehicle that can take a beating,” he said. “Our lifetime engine warranty, for trucks and Jeeps too, is an attraction.”

The Chevy Silverado and GM Sierra pickups, both fuel misers, sell in about equal numbers but outpace everything else at YK Motors, according to general sales manager Aaron Wall.

“Trucks, trucks, trucks,” he said. “I have people trading in off-make models saying the Silverado and Sierra have unbelievable fuel efficiency, for a half-ton specifically.”

Grande Prairie Nissan general manager Jeremy Budde said the Rogue, which he described as an affordable all-wheel drive SUV with good fuel economy, is his top seller for now. The new kid on the block, though, the redesigned Titan XD diesel half-ton pickup, looks like it is going to have a strong 2016.

“The truck market slowed down in January with the excitement of the new Titan, which just arrived at the dealership,” Budde said. “It’s the first time in a long time there has been a Cummins diesel engine in something other than a Dodge.”

He said the 5L V8 can tow 12,000 pounds and comes with holes for a gooseneck kit pre-drilled in the bed, but still rides like a half-ton on the highway.

“That’s very important to Nissan, that it is still a smooth-riding vehicle so you can take it on the highway on a big road trip from Grande Prairie to Fort Smith, for example.”

To buy or not to buy?

New vehicle leasing virtually disappeared after global adjustments the auto industry went through after the 2008 downturn, with major manufacturers including GM and Chrysler receiving assistance from federal governments on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. The companies no longer had the financial means to offer leasing, but in the past two years or so that option has become more popular with manufacturers offering leases through a third party.

“Definitely leasing is making a comeback,” Wall said, adding GM’s zero down payment, zero security deposit, zero first month’s payment and zero due on delivery on lease purchases is helping.

“It makes for affordable payments.”

Budde said at his dealership, whether leasing is the best option depends on the driver.

“Most of our stuff is purchase,” he said. “We have a lease program with Nissan but I wouldn’t say it’s coming back strong. I think leasing is for the right person. For someone with a lot of kilometres in a year, leasing may not be right.”

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