Canada February auto sales slip; Big Three still robust

Fri Mar 1, 2013 5:58pm EST
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By Solarina Ho

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian auto sales dropped a moderate 3.3 percent in February in a third straight monthly decline, according to industry data released on Friday, as a hardy appetite for Detroit's Big Three brands helped offset a setback for Japanese makers.

Chrysler Canada was the top seller last month, pipping Ford of Canada by a few hundred units, although Ford posted a higher overall sales increase at 5 percent, compared with Chrysler's 2 percent.

Carlos Gomes, an auto sector analyst at Scotiabank, said severe winter weather in part may have been responsible for the overall weakness.

"It's not terribly out of line with what we are forecasting for the year as a whole," he said.

Excluding weak sales of Japanese and Korean vehicles, sales have been up nearly 2 percent this year, Gomes said.

Industry sales totaled 103,226 vehicles in February, down from 106,712 a year ago, according to analyst firm DesRosiers Automotive. The drop comes after January sales fell modestly following a sturdy 5.7 percent sales rise in 2012.

"It still remains relatively robust given the slowing economy and drop in consumer confidence that was seen during the month," independent industry analyst Dennis DesRosier said in a research note.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2013, DesRosier said the spring selling season starting in March will provide a better gauge of the industry's direction for this year.   Continued...

A new 2011 Chrysler Town & Country minivan is displayed during a celebration ceremony for the production launch of the new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country mnivans at the Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ontario January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook