2009 Canadian Vehicle Survey Summary Report


Light vehicles

The light vehicle fleet includes vehicles that weigh less than 4.5 tonnes (t) and accounts for more than 96 percent of all vehicles in Canada. These vehicles are primarily used for private purposes and include cars, station wagons, vans, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks.

3.1 Number of light vehicles by body type

Figures 19 and 20 highlight the changes in the composition of the light vehicle fleet (change in the share of body type) that occurred between 2000 and 2009. During this period, the share of the entire light truck category (vans, SUVs and pickup trucks) increased substantially relative to the share of cars.

Figure 19 — Light vehicles by body type, 2000 and 2009.

2000 data are derived from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Vehicle Survey: Annual (Cat. No. 53-223). The share by body type, found in the publication, was applied to the total number of light vehicles in 2000 (16 642 140 vehicles).

* Straight trucks, tractor-trailers and buses as defined by Statistics Canada.

Most notably, the number of SUVs almost doubled their share of the light vehicle fleet (increasing from 6.9 percent to 12.8 percent). Meanwhile, the share of cars decreased from 60.5 percent to 55.4 percent, and the share of station wagons increased by 1 percentage point to reach 3.5 percent (see Figure 19).

Figure 20 illustrates how the composition of the light vehicle category has changed since 2000. The share of light trucks increased steadily from 2000 to 2007 and reached 45 percent of the light vehicle category in 2006 and 2007. Since then, however, the light trucks’ share has diminished somewhat, and it represented only 41.1 percent of the light vehicle category in 2009. The recession and increasing gasoline prices may explain this change in the trend.

Figure 20 — Distribution of light vehicles by body type, 2000 to 2009.

The changes in the composition of the light vehicle fleet have implications for fuel consumption because vans, SUVs and pickup trucks generally tend to consume more fuel than do cars and station wagons. In 2009, the average gasoline-powered car and station wagon consumed 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres (L/100 km), while the average van, SUV and light truck consumed 12.6 L/100 km. As discussed in Section 2.3, the provinces that have higher fuel consumption rates (FCRs) also have a higher share of vans, SUVs and pickup trucks in their light vehicle fleet.

3.2 Passenger-kilometres

Passenger-kilometres (PKM) travelled in light vehicles were 475 billion in 2000, peaking at 497 billion in 2005. By 2009, PKM were 493 billion, 3.8 percent higher than in 2000 (see Figure 21). This yielded a compound annual growth rate of 0.4 percent over 2000 to 2009. The trend in PKM can be related partly to that in vehicle-kilometres (VKM) (as described in Section 1.2) in which the 2008 estimate was lower than both 2007 and 2009 because of the higher gas prices in the summer of 2008.

Figure 21 illustrates the breakdown of PKM by vehicle body type, which reflects the changing composition of the light vehicle fleet.

Figure 21 — Passenger-kilometres travelled in Canada by light vehicles by body type, 2000 to 2009.

From 2000 to 2006, PKM for cars and station wagons decreased, while those for vans, SUVs and pickup trucks increased. However, from 2007 to 2009, this trend reversed. Furthermore, the current light vehicle models make it harder to differentiate between SUVs, cars and, especially, station wagons. As a result, vehicles with larger body types are being utilized for purposes traditionally reserved for cars.

3.3 Vehicle-kilometres

VKM in the light vehicle fleet increased at an average annual rate of 0.8 percent between 2000 and 2009 (a total growth of 7.7 percent over the period). This increase is well below the growth of light vehicles, which averaged 1.9 percent per year during this period.

Figure 22 shows that the average light vehicle in Canada was driven 15 336 km in 2009, down from almost 17 000 km in 2000. During this same period, vehicle ownership increased from 1.43 to 1.47 vehicles per household. In other words, although the number of light vehicles in Canada has increased since 2000, Canadians have travelled less distance in each vehicle. In addition, the occupancy rate of light vehicles decreased from 1.68 to 1.62 people per vehicle over this period.

Figure 22 — Average distance travelled by and number of light vehicles per household, 2000 to 2009.

Differences also emerged regarding the number of average VKM travelled per year by body type. Figure 23 shows that light trucks (e.g. vans, SUVs and pickup trucks) travelled more, on average, than passenger cars. However, the trends are converging, and the two body types are becoming more similar in their average distance travelled. This trend is reflected by the larger negative compound annual growth rate of light trucks at -1.9 percent per year compared with -1.5 percent per year for cars and station wagons.

Figure 23 — Average distance travelled by light vehicles by body type, 2000 to 2009.

The occupancy rate can be estimated for every kilometre that a vehicle is driven by using the PKM/VKM ratio. As shown in Figure 24, this ratio dropped 6.0 percent for cars and station wagons and 0.6 percent for light trucks between 2000 and 2009, indicating fewer passengers in vehicles.

Figure 24 — Canadian vehicle occupancy rate of light vehicles by body type, 2000 to 2009.

3.4 Age of light vehicles

Figure 25 shows Canada’s light vehicle fleet for 2005 and 2009 by vehicle age. The number of vehicles in all age categories increased between these years. The age distribution shows that the largest change is in the category of vehicles that are 6 to 9 years old, which reflects the strong sales of new vehicles in the early 2000s. In 2009, approximately one in five vehicles was less than 3 years old, and more than two thirds of vehicles were 9 years old or less (see Figure 26). Vehicle age is an important determinant of fuel consumption because newer vehicles tend to be more fuel-efficient.

Figure 25 — Number of light vehicles by vehicle age, 2005 and 2009.

Figure 26 — Share of light vehicles by vehicle age, 2009.

3.5 Light vehicle fuel consumption rate by gender of driver

Figure 27 shows the split in the FCR between male and female drivers. It looks as though men have adjusted their driving habits over the years and are now closer in line with women’s driving habits. Although there is considerable fluctuation from year to year, there is a general downward trend in the FCR for both male and female drivers.

Figure 27 — Fuel consumption rate of light vehicles by driver gender, 2004 to 2009.

The FCR for male drivers decreased more rapidly than for female drivers such that there was very little difference between them in 2009. Other factors that may affect FCR by gender include type of vehicle driven by each gender and the type of driving (city versus highway). Note that the data quality for these statistics is only acceptable at best and should be used with caution, which makes any final statement inconclusive.