* Analysts forecast another strong year in 2013
* Sales seen boosted by pent-up demand, higher employment
* Chrysler passes General Motors, moves into second place
* Korean, European automakers show strong Canadian sales in
By Nicole Mordant
Jan 3 Canadian vehicle sales rose a sturdy 5.7
percent last year to 1.68 million, their second highest level on
record, lifted by demand for fuel-efficient passenger cars,
stylish European imports and well-priced Korean models.
Ford Motor Co of Canada was the top-selling automaker
in Canada for the third year in a row while Chrysler,
which was in third place in 2011, knocked General Motors
from the No. 2 perch.
Vehicle sales are expected to continue to increase this
year, nearing -- or even exceeding -- the record of 1.7 million
set in 2002, on the back of pent-up demand left over from the
recession and higher employment especially in Western Canada,
"Expect another good year," said independent auto sector
analyst Dennis DesRosiers, adding, however, that the softness
evident in late 2012 "concerns us."
Ford said on Thursday it sold 276,068 vehicles in Canada
last year, just 90 more than in 2011, including more than
100,000 F-Series trucks, which remained the best-selling vehicle
in Canada for the third consecutive year.
Chrysler Canada's vehicle sales rose 6 percent to 243,845
last year, its best for retail sales results since 2000.
"Our investment in fuel-efficient new vehicles and power
trains has propelled us to be the number two seller," President
and Chief Executive Reid Bigland said, forecasting continued
strong sales in 2013.
Dianne Craig, president and CEO at Ford of Canada, also said
the company was optimistic about growth.
Vehicle sales at General Motors of Canada fell 6.6 percent
in 2012 to 226,825, putting it in third place for the year. GM
of Canada President and Managing Director Kevin Williams
described Canada's auto market as "highly competitive."
DETROIT'S MARKET SHARE DIPS
Although the Detroit Three automakers kept their long-held
lead in the Canadian market last year, their market share dipped
to 44.5 percent from 47.2 percent in 2011 as sales of imported
vehicles grew at their expense, data from DesRosiers showed.
Japanese automakers reported strong annual sales growth in
2012 but that was off a low base in 2011 when a devastating
earthquake and tsunami in Japan disrupted production and sales.
Toyota Canada said its sales rose 18.4 percent to
192,058 last year while Honda Canada said combined
Honda and Acura sales jumped 21 percent to 148,712. The Honda
Civic retained its position as Canada's top-selling passenger
car for the 15th consecutive year.
Korean brands Hyundai and Kia both
set new sales records in 2012, as did several European brands
including BMW, Mercedes, Audi
DECEMBER A SLUGGISH MONTH IN CANADA
Vehicle sales in Canada overall dipped 4.9 percent in
December, DesRosiers figures showed.
Ford said its vehicle sales slipped 13 percent to 16,874 in
the month while GM Canada, whose lineup includes Chevrolet,
Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles, said its sales fell 20 percent
Sales at Chrysler Canada, which includes its Chrysler, Jeep,
Dodge, Fiat and Ram models, rose 1 percent to 14,756 vehicles.
Chrysler Canada is wholly owned by Chrysler Group LLC, which in
turn is controlled by Italy's Fiat SpA .
South of the border, U.S. auto sales rose 9 percent in
December, led by foreign manufacturers, capping off the best
year for the industry since before the recession. The year's
sales were driven by a slowly recovering economy, more available
credit and the need for consumers and businesses to replace
aging cars and trucks.