RPT-UPDATE 1-Canadian auto sales nudge higher in March

Tue Apr 1, 2014 5:30pm EDT
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(Repeats to widen distribution)

By Susan Taylor

TORONTO, April 1 (Reuters) - Canadian auto sales inched just 0.2 percent higher in March from a year earlier, figures on Tuesday showed, but an independent auto industry analyst said the modest increase masked a solid performance during severe winter weather, especially in comparison with the record sales of March 2013.

Canadian sales rose to 157,060 vehicles in March from 156,680 the year before, marking the second-best March on record, said Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

"Being up by a sliver isn't shooting the lights out, but when put in the context of a never-ending winter and strong year-ago sales, then current sales levels should be applauded rather than scorned," he wrote in a report.

Truck sales climbed 5.1 percent to 90,851 vehicles from 86,475 last year, while car sales went in the opposite direction, falling 5.7 percent to 66,209 vehicles, the DesRosiers report said.

"Perhaps the biggest ongoing dynamic is the strength in the light truck market," he wrote. That trend is also evident in year-to-date figures, with truck sales up 6.3 percent and auto sales down 6.2 percent.

Demand for Detroit 3 branded vehicles slipped 1.1 percent in March to 68,661 vehicles, the report said, while sales of other makers were 1.3 percent higher at 88,399 vehicles.

Chrysler Canada, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles , took the top sales spot, as strong demand for its trucks offset a slump in car sales.   Continued...