There’s plenty about the last two and a half years that automobile manufacturers would probably do over, if only they could.
The sudden collapse of production during the early part of the pandemic, in part due to the fear that demand would collapse for an extended period, perhaps wasn’t the wisest choice. Nor were the outrageous incentives brought to bear in the second-quarter of 2020 even remotely as necessary as first believed. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.
Automakers made a wide variety of good decisions, however, one of which was the continuation of new product development. That’s not to say the prevailing manufacturing conditions of 2021 and 2022 made for ideal launch pads.
But the cars, trucks, and SUVs were ready.
There are always a series of headwinds automakers face when launching a new vehicle. Mind you, we’re not talking about a new version of an existing nameplate, such as the new 2022 Honda Civic or the 2022 Subaru BRZ. No, we’re talking only about all-new vehicle nameplates that weren’t on sale throughout 2021 but arrived at some point during the first three-quarters of 2022.
In a typical year, automakers need to time the hype phase with the assembly plant’s quality control and the dealer arrival schedule so as to sustain interest without peaking too early. Competing in a new category that’s already dominated by a major industry player? You’ll have to be priced competitively, but if you go in too affordably you’ve erased profit margins on a vehicle that requires major revenue in order to pay off the hundreds of millions of dollars already spent on development.
Among so many other possible complications, 2022 threw another wrench into the works. What if you’ve spent all of this money developing a new vehicle for a new segment only to discover that you don’t have all of the parts to build the vehicle? What if you don’t have the workers to staff the assembly line? What if shipping costs suddenly skyrocket? What if your five-year plan for the vehicle is rendered invalid by regulatory changes before you’ve even sold your first copy?
2022 was hard. But we’re still determined to select a roster of 14 vehicles to examine the launch phase of new vehicles in Canada through the first three-quarters of the year.
2023 Acura Integra Elite A-Spec MT Photo by Brendan McAleer
Long rumoured, the reborn Integra nameplate stepped into the Acura lineup this spring with the intent of bringing a measure of cachet back to the slot previously filled by the ILX, CSX, EL, and RSX. Very clearly based on the stellar 11th-generation Honda Civic, the Integra lineup begins with a Civic Si-matching powertrain. The 293 Integras sold in the third-quarter bring the nameplate’s total up to 457 vehicles to date, a paltry number that’s expected to grow significantly as — you’ve heard this before — availability improves. The Integra badge was last applied to a vehicle in Canada’s Acura lineup in 2000.
Audi Q4 E-tron
In Canada’s luxury market, Audi’s SUVs are sought after items. The Q3 and Q5, in particular, are among the top-selling premium brand utility vehicles in the country. The duo accounts for just over half of Audi Canada’s volume. The Q4 E-tron — not to be confused with the E-tron and E-tron GT — operates in a similar size and price bracket as the Q3 and Q5 but functions exclusively with an electric powertrain that offers nearly 500 kilometres of range. Audi launched the Q4 E-tron early this summer; a total of 353 were sold through the end of the third-quarter.
Ford Maverick XL Photo by Brendan McAleer
Arriving in Canada just in time for New Year celebrations, Ford’s Maverick has fought through the industry’s proverbial production limitations to achieve a top-notch start. In the first nine months of 2022, 6,236 Mavericks were sold, enough to make Ford’s other non-full-size truck, the Ranger, appear nearly nonexistent. (Ford sold 3,393 Rangers between January and September.)
Hyundai’s Genesis offshoot brand launched its first all-electric crossover in the spring. By the end of September, 388 GV60s had been delivered in Canada. For comparison, the most popular Genesis is the GV70, an SUV that produced 667 sales in Q3; 2,086 through the end of September. GV60 pricing starts above $70K, but beyond the 400+ kilometres of range, there are a number of GV60 perks: five years of free maintenance alongside at-home concierge services.
Hyundai Ioniq 5
Rewind five years and find an auto industry observer who predicted that a large, boxy, Hyundai hatch would be a stand-out in 2022’s crop of all-new vehicles. In nine months, Hyundai sold 4,377 copies of the Ioniq 5, double the number of Sonatas sold by the company and nearly double the number of sales produced by another recently launched Hyundai, the Santa Cruz pickup. Clearly, this is a blend of range, performance, space, and style that Canadians want. The Ioniq 5 is outselling relatively common vehicles such as the Kia Soul, Honda Accord, and Ford Mustang.
They may be generally low-volume vehicles, but full-size SUVs from General Motors (Tahoe, Yukon, Suburban, Yukon XL, Escalade, Escalade ESV) and Ford (Expedition, Navigator) are highly profitable units based on highly profitable full-size pickups. The Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are the new entries from Stellantis’s Jeep marque. Through the first nine months of the year, 2,158 were sold, good enough to grab 11 per cent of domestic full-size SUV sales.
You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but the Kia EV6 is a platform partner of the Hyundai Ioniq 5. But while production of the Ioniq 5 has been healthy enough to cater to Hyundai’s healthy demand, the EV6 has proven to be a rare beast for Kia dealers. Only 970 EV6s were delivered in 2022’s first nine months, 3,407 fewer than the Hyundai.
2023 Mazda CX-50 Photo by Clayton Seams
Mazda’s Alabama-built crossover has a name that’s dangerously close to the CX-5 and shares powertrains, too. But the CX-50 delivers a more rugged image at a higher price point. Problem is, the CX-50 hasn’t delivered much at all in 2022 — only 1,671 CX-50s were sold in 2022’s first nine months. Mazda sold 18,768 CX-5’s during the same time period. Mazda says attracting enough employees to build CX-50s in Alabama has proven to be a significant challenge.
Don’t confuse the the MX-30’s low volume scenario with that of the CX-50. While Mazda simply can’t build enough CX-50s, the MX-30 is a low-range (161 kilometre) electric with rear-hinged rear doors, quirky styling, and scarce real-world appeal. Only 622 MX-30s were sold in 2022.
We won’t really know what kind of appeal electric vehicles possess until there are more mass-market options, greater infrastructure investment, and governments quit incentivizing. None of that really has anything to do with the Mercedes-Benz EQS, essentially the S-Class equivalent in Mercedes-Benz’s dedicated EV lineup. Priced from $146,500, the EQS is decidedly not mass-market. Only 276 were sold through the end of September, including 116 in Q3.
2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 SUV Photo by Chris Balcerak
Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV
The $136,000 EQS 450 4Matic SUV and $158,500 EQS 580 4Matic SUV, with around 460 kilometres of range, aren’t going to change the world in the near future. (The first 28 EQS SUVs were only just sold at the end of Q3.) But don’t let the out-of-reach nature of the EQS SUV lead you to believe that this vehicle has nothing to do with the changing nature of industry. Elements of top-tier Benzes tend to trickle down. For example, S-Class Benzes brought advanced safety features such as ABS and electronic stability control into mass production decades before most of us had ever even heard the terms.
Toyota Corolla Cross
Toyota was slow to latch onto the subcompact crossover idea. The soon-to-be-discontinued C-HR was an impractical, front-wheel-drive-only effort that performed acceptably for Toyota, but hardly achieved the kind of dominance Toyota expects in a category such as this. The Corolla Cross is staid in comparison, but that may be just what a Toyota entrant in this category needs to be. Through the end of September, 6,994 copies of the Corolla Cross were delivered.
The 2023 VW ID.4 features a new entry level model priced at $43,995 with a 62 kWh battery pack and an estimated range of 335 kilometres. Photo by Andrew McCredie
With another 112 sales in Q3, ID.4 sales in 2022 now total 1,008. It’s not Volkswagen’s first electric vehicle in Canada — remember the e-Golf? — but it’s the company’s first major effort, and it hits on the affordability quotient (at $44,995) that works for the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Chevrolet Bolt, both of which are far more common at this point.
By pumping out over 400 horsepower and achieving 364 kilometres of range, the C40 Recharge doesn’t shy away from making performance one of its key calling cards. Volvo is also keen to point out the C40’s leather-free interior. So far, the unusually styled C40 is a rare beast: 24 were sold in Q3 for a 263-unit year-to-date tally. Volvo’s Canadian volume is down 8 per cent to 7,744 units this year.
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