Trucks! Trucks! Trucks!

Quick post to show how easy it is to do quick data exploration using R. This post walks us through making a (nice!) chart of new vehicle sales in Canada, breaking it down by vehicle type and region.

Step 1: Load the three packages we will use for this plot:

  • tidyverse : because always tidyverse
  • cansim : great package to easily extract Statistics Canada data
  • ggthemes : not necessary, but a quick way to pretty up your ggplot

Step 2: Data wranglin’

  1. Pull in the data
  2. Filter to what we want in the data
  3. Fiddle with some labels
data <- get_cansim(20100001) %>% normalize_cansim_values()

plotdata <- data %>%
         `Vehicle type` %in% c("Passenger cars","Trucks"),
         `Origin of manufacture`=="Total, country of manufacture")

# Change some GEO labels to shorten them
plotdata$GEO[plotdata$GEO=="Newfoundland and Labrador"] <- "Nfld & Lab."
plotdata$GEO[plotdata$GEO=="British Columbia and the Territories"] <- "BC & Terr."
plotdata$GEO[plotdata$GEO=="Prince Edward Island"] <- "PEI"
plotdata$GEO <- factor(plotdata$GEO, levels=c("BC & Terr.","Alberta","Saskatchewan","Manitoba","Ontario","Quebec","New Brunswick","PEI","Nova Scotia","Nfld & Lab."))

# Change "passenger cars" to "cars" for plot label
plotdata$`Vehicle type`[plotdata$`Vehicle type`=="Passenger cars"] <- "Cars"

Step 3: Plot it!

ggplot(plotdata, aes(Date,VALUE,color=`Vehicle type`))+
  facet_wrap(~GEO, scales="free_y", nrow=2)+
  scale_color_ptol(name="")+  # nice color scheme from ggthemes package
               breaks = c(as.Date("1980-01-01"),as.Date("2000-01-01"),as.Date("2020-01-01")),
               date_labels = "%Y")+
  theme_tufte(12,"Shree Devanagari 714")+     # font similar to 'Avenir'
  theme(legend.position = "top",
        plot.caption = element_text(face="italic"),
        legend.text = element_text(size=14))+
  labs(x="", y="",
       subtitle="New vehicle sales (monthly)",
       title="Trucks! Trucks! Trucks!",
       caption="Fitted line through monthly (seasonally unadjusted) data.\nSource: Statscan NDM Table 20-10-0001.")

There you go. A nice quick plot showing a pretty stark shift in consumer preferences towards trucks across all regions in Canada. An interesting extension of this data exploration would be to see what this means in terms of fleet-wide fuel economy. Are people switching from Civics to F-150s? Or Crown Vics to Subaru Crosstreks? The latter would mean a shift from cars to “trucks” is improving overall gas mileage… More data needed!

Happy Charting!


Blake Shaffer
Blake Shaffer
Assistant Professor

My research interests include electricity markets, demand response, electric vehicles, and climate policy