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TORONTO (Reuters) - Vehicle sales in Canada rose nearly 3 percent in June from a powerhouse month the year before, when industry incentives helped spark a rush of demand.
Lifted by a strong appetite for import brands, sales of cars and light trucks in Canada rose 2.8 percent from a year earlier to 169,459 vehicles, according to data compiled by independent automotive analyst Dennis DesRosiers and released on Wednesday.
Sales of imports increased nearly 16 percent last month, while Canadian sales of General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler nameplates fell 9.2 percent, according to DesRosiers.
The comparison was with a very strong June in 2011.
"Last June was the strongest month of the year. We had weak results last May and then the industry boosted incentives during the month of June," said Scotiabank economist Carlos Gomes, who was expecting flat year-over-year sales.
Ford Canada said it was the country's top-selling automaker this June and year-to-date, despite an 8.7 percent decline in monthly vehicle sales.
The company said total sales declined to 30,543 vehicles from 33,450 in June 2011, as car sales dropped 12.4 percent and truck sales declined 6.9 percent.
"Coming off a 23-year sales record last June, Ford of Canada still had a very positive month closing at number one," said Chief Executive Dianne Craig.
Ford Canada's year-to-date sales were up 1.3 percent at 142,181 vehicles, reflecting a 2.8 percent jump in car sales and 0.7 percent increase in truck sales.
Chrysler Canada said its sales increased 0.5 percent in June from a year earlier as weaker truck sales offset stronger demand for cars.
Total sales rose to 23,705 vehicles from 23,576 in the same month last year, while year-to-date sales were up 7 percent to 130,286 vehicles, the company said.
Truck sales fell 0.7 percent in June to 19,971, while car sales increased 8.1 percent to 3,734 vehicles, said the company, whose U.S. parent is controlled by Italy's Fiat.
"At the halfway point in 2012, our passenger car sales are up a whopping 31 percent, led primarily by sales of the Chrysler 300, Chrysler 200 and Fiat 500," said Chrysler Canada Chief Operating Officer Dave Buckingham. "We are experiencing the best start to the year in over a decade."
Sales of the Chrysler 300 jumped 281 percent to 803 vehicles, as sales of the Chrysler 200 sedan rose 38 percent to 1,192 vehicles. Fiat 500 sales rose 16 percent to 581 and Fiat 500 Cabrio sales soared 291 percent to 258 vehicles.
General Motors of Canada said that June sales fell 18 percent to 22,869 at its Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealers.
"While our total volume in the month of June was down, our retail focus is gaining traction with the double-digit calendar-year-to-date results for Buick and Chevrolet small cars," said vice-president of sales Marc Comeau.
In the United States, automakers reported a better-than-expected 22 percent jump in June sales on Tuesday. That sturdy demand, which followed disappointing May sales, put U.S. new auto sales on track for their best year since 2007.
"The U.S. has not had the same type of incentive activity over the last couple of years Canada did," said Gomes, adding that this has started to change.
In the first half of 2012, about 7.27 million new cars and trucks were sold in the United States, pointing to full-year sales of 14.5 million vehicles if the trend continues.
Toyota Canada said its monthly sales jumped 67 percent to 19,104 vehicles in June from the same month last year, when production and sales were hurt by the impact of earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March.
Toyota-branded sales jumped 70 percent to 16,957 while Lexus sales rose 48 percent to 1,340,and Scion sales rose 35 percent to 807 vehicles.
Honda Canada said June sales of Honda-branded and Acura vehicles jumped 42 percent to 13,557.
Reporting By Susan Taylor; Editing by Peter Galloway