Canada vehicle sales fall, signal fragile recovery

Tue Mar 1, 2011 5:52pm EST
 
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By Nicole Mordant

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian auto sales fell for the first time in 14 months in February showing the fragility of the sector's recovery as a late-month oil price spike hit truck sales and some Japanese car makers struggled.

After a strong January, vehicle sales fell an unexpected 4.2 percent last month, the first time in 14 months that sales were down, said independent auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers.

"It shows we have a very halting recovery... The continued positive view of where the automotive sector is going may be ill-founded," DesRosiers said.

He cautioned, however, that February is traditionally the worst sales month of the year and that not too much store should be put in one month's figures.

In the United States, auto sales rose more than 20 percent in February, figures showed on Tuesday, exceeding the most bullish forecasts as the lure of discounts from automakers outweighed concerns about higher oil prices. [nN01121963]

Ford Motor Co of Canada Ltd (F.N: Quote) once again claimed the top spot in sales after losing it last month to General Motors (GM.N: Quote) of Canada, which was pushed to third place in February behind Chrysler.

Ford returned to the No. 1 position despite a 10.3 percent drop in vehicle sales. It said truck sales slid 14.4 percent to 12,378 units, which it blamed on a spike in oil prices toward the end of the month.

"February industry was lower than expected, reflecting higher gas prices and lower consumer confidence," said David Mondragon, Ford Canada's chief executive.   Continued...