May 1, 2012 / 8:30 PM / in 5 years

April vehicle sales dip but Chrysler strong

A new 2011 Chrysler Town & Country minivan is displayed during a celebration ceremony for the production launch of the new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country mnivans at the Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ontario January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

(Reuters) - Vehicle sales dipped in April from an exceptionally strong month the year before, but sales of fuel-efficient cars stayed strong.

Sales of cars and light trucks in Canada slipped 1.4 percent in April from a year earlier to 157,777 vehicles, the first monthly drop this year, according to data compiled by independent automotive analyst Dennis DesRosiers and released on Tuesday.

There were three fewer sales days this April than in April 2011.

High gas prices again pushed Canadians to seek out fuel-efficient cars, and this helped Chrysler to top the sales charts as it continued its strong performance this year.

Chrysler Canada said its sales rose 3 percent to 24,540 in April, its 29th consecutive month of sales increases, helped by a 43 percent surge in car sales to 5,283. Sales of trucks, heavier users of gas, increased 3.7 percent to 19,257.

“Our highly fuel-efficient new product is definitely giving our sales results a shot of adrenalin. After four months, we are off to the best start we have had in a decade,” said Dave Buckingham, chief operating officer at Chrysler Canada.

Chrysler’s sales are benefiting from the launch of smaller, European-styled cars designed by Fiat SpA, Chrysler’s owner. It said it has sold more vehicles than any other company in Canada so far this year.

“With gas prices hitting record highs last month, we saw an increasing number of Canadian consumers choosing cars,” said Dianne Craig, chief executive of Ford Motor Co’s Canadian division.

Ford Canada vehicle sales fell 5.4 percent in April but car sales were 5.1 percent higher at 6,904. Truck sales slid 9 percent to 17,267.

Ford was a close second in sales to Chrysler last month, DesRosiers said. He said Ford had “very difficult comparables to last year, where they blew the doors off the market most months”.

General Motors of Canada said its total sales were down 6.8 percent in April to 21,090, putting it in third place.

In the United States, General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co both reported a smaller-than-expected decline in new vehicle sales in April. GM, the biggest U.S. automaker, raised its full-year forecast for the industry due to a strengthening economy.

In Canada, sales by Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co slid in April due to tough comparisons from a year earlier. Their sales were boosted last April by heavy purchases because of worries of imminent supply shortages caused by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011.

Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Peter Galloway

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