UPDATE 3-Canada 2012 vehicle sales up 5.7 pct as Ford stays No.1

Thu Jan 3, 2013 7:32pm EST
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* 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 2012

By Nicole Mordant

Jan 3 (Reuters) - 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, analysts said.

"Expect another good year," said independent auto sector analyst Dennis DesRosiers, adding, however, that the softness evident in late 2012 "concerns us."   Continued...