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(Adds comment from Canadian auto analyst)
By Allison Lampert
MONTREAL, April 1 (Reuters) - Detroit's Big Three automakers on Friday reported higher March and first-quarter auto sales in Canada, as forecasters expect Canadian demand this year for vehicles and trucks to exceed that of record-breaking 2015.
General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. reported double-digit sales increases for March and the first quarter of 2016, compared with the same periods a year earlier, fueled largely by low gasoline prices and greater demand for trucks.
"The market continues to see solid sales momentum in March," Canadian auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers wrote in a note. "It has been a dream start to 2016."
Automakers sold 175,142 vehicles in Canada last month and 402,896 units for the first quarter, up 9 percent for both periods, DesRosiers said, noting the March sales were a record for the month.
Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealers delivered 24,498 vehicles in March 2016, an increase of 17 percent versus March 2015, GM said in a statement. March 2016 had one extra selling day compared with March 2015.
GM's sales in the first quarter of 2016 were up 18 percent compared with the same period in 2015.
Ford sold 26,447 vehicles in Canada last month, up 24 percent compared with March 2015. Increased demand for trucks fueled a 21 percent rise in Ford's first-quarter sales.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported 25,862 vehicles sold in March 2016, up 3 percent compared with the same month in 2015. Sales for the first quarter were up 2 percent compared with the first three months of 2015.
"Minivan and Jeep sales gains were the key contributors to our March results," Dave Buckingham, chief operating officer, FCA Canada, said in a news release.
Honda Motor Co Ltd reported its best-ever month of March in Canada with sales of 16,355 units, up 11 percent from the same month in 2015. Toyota Motor Corp sold 19,097 vehicles in March in Canada, up 13.6 percent compared with 2015.
In the United States, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler on Friday reported lower U.S. auto sales for March than industry analysts expected, but Ford Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co topped estimates. Analysts polled by Reuters expected an increase in March auto sales of about 7 percent from a year earlier.
Low gasoline prices, relatively low interest rates and stronger employment have helped boost U.S. auto sales for several years. (Reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Dan Grebler)