Canadians prefer light trucks and SUVs over cars

Quantcast's auto industry report digs deep into vehicle buyers, their preferences and lifestyles.

carFor many Canadians, a car is the second largest investment they’ll make in their lifetime. Like most big-ticket item shoppers, those hunting for a new vehicle spend time online building a consideration list of brands, models and features. These searches also provide valuable data to inform a brand’s marketing and advertising efforts.

Canadian Automotive Audience Insights, released last month by audience intelligence company Quantcast, delves into every vehicle segment and provides data for marketers to be able to understand the audience for each model and the competitor brands they are considering.

A combination of machine learning, a privacy-by-design approach, and live data drawn from more than 100 million online destinations gives Quantcast the ability to uncover rare insights.

Although most auto manufacturers have suspended new vehicle production in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and sales may also be impacted by the pandemic, it is important to keep in mind and be prepared for a shift in consumer behavior that could occur as a result of public health concerns surrounding public transportation.

With overall internet searches up while people are home, it’s also possible that those planning to return to an office by vehicle will be ready to make a purchase once they are commuting again. This could make the auto industry poised for a faster recovery than other segments. Additionally, lease terms continue to move forward during these months and while companies like GM, Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz have offered lease extension options, there will be pent up demand once social distancing measures are eased.

Even though over 1.9 million vehicles were sold in 2019, Canadian sales did take a bit of hit. Some of the factors contributing to this include longer-lasting vehicles, longer auto loan amortization periods – with 84 month terms becoming increasingly common – and wider adoption of alternatives such as car share, rideshare and public transportation. However, not all segments were affected equally. Light truck and SUV sales showed consistent monthly year-over-year growth throughout 2019.

Those searching for electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid vehicles aren’t necessarily interested in environmental and green issues. On the contrary, they are more likely to be interested in topics of affluence like travel and investing, compared to the average Canadian internet user.

These searchers are also more likely to cross-search non-EV and hybrid mainstream models than luxury ones. In addition, this segment has the highest percentage of male searchers in the industry and are more likely to be very young or older compared to the national average.

In the mainstream compact sedan segment, safety is the most frequently searched topic, particularly in the areas of crash ratings and safety features. These shoppers skew younger compared to the average Canadian vehicle searcher. The segment has traditionally been an entry-level option for younger buyers, but has been challenged by compact crossovers.

Not all models have the same appeal to the younger generations. VW Golf and Subaru Impreza were more popular for the 18 to 20 group while Chevrolet Cruze and Kia Forte appealed more to 25-to-29-years old. The Jetta, Corolla and Mazda 3 all appeal to an older demographic.

Competition in SUV segments is fierce with mainstream mid-size SUV searchers being the most likely cross-search models in other segments. Comparatively, the pickup truck audience is much less likely to consider models outside of their segment.

Mainstream compact SUV searchers skew older than the sub-compact sedan segment but are still relatively young. The gender split is also more evenly distributed. This is the most popular segment for females. Within the segment, the Volkswagen Tiguan tops the ranking with more females searching the model than males. In contrast, only 41% of those searching for just the Volkswagen brand are female.

In the luxury market, consumers exploring the Jaguar XE model under-indexed on households with income of over $100k. All other popular luxury compact sedans are at or above the national average. Those looking at the Infiniti QX50 were 55% female compared to just 42% female for the overall Infiniti brand.

Like the luxury compact sedan market, the premium compact SUV segment over indexes on the oldest demographic.  The gender split is heavily weighted for males, 57%, compared to 52% for mainstream compact SUV searchers. The luxury compact SUV audience does not skew towards females as much as the mainstream segment, but there are still specific models where the majority of searchers are female.

Vehicle manufacturers have responded to the purchase trends in Canada by building more SUV options than ever before. The segment itself is facing stronger competition as car manufacturers introduce increasingly more SUV sub categories like the sub-compact SUV segment. There are currently over 125 active SUV/crossover models in the Canadian market.

Canadian Automotive Audience Insights also covers sales seasonality as well as model comparisons by segment.


About Quantcast

Quantcast is an audience intelligence and measurement company headquartered in San Francisco. Combining machine learning, a privacy-by-design approach, and live data drawn from more than 100 million online destinations, Quantcast provides software, information and advertising services for marketers, publishers and advertising agencies worldwide. Founded in 2006, Quantcast has employees in 20 offices across 10 countries.