UPDATE 1-Canadian auto sales set monthly record in May

Tue Jun 3, 2014 5:07pm EDT
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(Recasts with total Canadian auto sales, adds data for GM and Toyota Canada)

TORONTO, June 3 (Reuters) - Pent-up demand helped drive Canadian auto sales to a monthly record in May, with mass market brands and niche automakers both big winners, an independent auto industry analyst said on Tuesday.

A 12.1 percent surge in truck demand helped lift May vehicle sales by 5.7 percent to 195,571 vehicles, said Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, offsetting a 1.7 percent drop in car sales.

"We hold to our fundamental belief that the Canadian market bought light vehicles below its potential, and indeed its need for transportation, for a number of years," DesRosiers wrote in a report. "Even though we are in record territory, there is still room to grow, albeit slightly."

May sales were 10,000 units ahead of the previous record set in May 2007 and pushed the seasonally adjusted annual rate to 1.86 million vehicles, he added. Year-to-date sales were up 2.9 percent, to 732,666 vehicles, marking the second-best January-to-May sales period ever.

Gains for larger brands were led by Nissan Motor Co's 28.9 percent jump in sales, the consultant wrote, followed by a 12.4 percent increase at Honda Motor Co Ltd , an 11.8 percent gain at General Motors Co and 8 percent lift at Chrysler.

Ford Motor Co of Canada Ltd was the country's top auto seller in May, despite a 2.3 decline in sales to 31,754 vehicles, with Chrysler Canada a close second with 31,498 vehicles.

Ford truck sales rose 1.1 percent, but car sales slipped 11.2 percent. So far this year, total sales are down 4.8 percent to 112,265 vehicles.

Chrysler Canada said it maintained its position as the country's top-selling automotive company for 2014, with year-to-date sales up 6 percent at 119,579 vehicles.   Continued...