February 3, 2014 / 5:03 PM / in 5 years

Canadian auto sales nudge slightly higher in January

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian auto sales nudged just 0.3 percent higher in January, as imports outsold Detroit Three vehicles, but bad winter weather and a big December sales push likely skewed the results, an independent auto industry expert said on Monday.

A new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan is driven off the final production line 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

Auto sales in the country rose to 95,639 vehicles in January, as a 4.7 percent increase in truck sales offset a 5.9 percent drop in passenger car sales, said Dennis DesRosiers, of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

Vehicles manufactured by the Canadian arms of Ford Motor Co (F.N), General Motors Co (GM.N) and Chrysler Group, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles FIA.MI, tumbled 8.1 percent to 43,106 vehicles, while imports rose 8.5 percent to 52,533 vehicles, DesRosiers said in a report.

“We often see double digit increases in December, as sales are pulled forward, followed by double digit decreases in January when reality sets in. Add some bad weather into the mix and it is near impossible to identify sales trends based on January sales,” DesRosiers wrote.

Chrysler Canada was the country’s top seller in January, as total sales grew 3.9 percent to 17,698 vehicles from 17,013 in the same period last year. Truck sales rose 4 percent to 15,023 vehicles, as car sales climbed 4.2 percent to 2,675 vehicles.

The data includes a 9 percent jump for sales of the Dodge Grand Caravan, to 3,030 vehicles, a 1 percent increase for Ram Pickup sales, to 5,433 units, and an 82 percent jump in Fiat branded vehicles to 596 for the month.

“In the history of Chrysler Canada, we have never had a stronger product lineup to fuel our efforts, leading to 50 months of year-over-year sales growth,” said Chrysler Canada Chief Operating Officer Dave Buckingham in a statement.

In contrast, Ford Canada and General Motors Canada saw their monthly sales decline.

Ford sales slipped 10.3 percent to 14,533 vehicles in January, from 16,197 in the same period last year. Truck sales fell 6.5 percent to 11,746 vehicles, while car sales dropped 23.3 percent to 2,787 vehicles.

Ford, which was the country’s best-selling automaker in 2013, said it was looking forward to 2014, as it launches 16 vehicles in North America.

“Chrysler has started the last few years as the best-selling brand only to be overtaken by Ford by mid-year,” DesRosiers wrote. “Chrysler racked up a big lead in January, so it will be interesting to see how this battle plays out.”

GM Canada said its sales dropped 20 percent to 10,991 vehicles in the month. The automaker’s top-selling compact car segment was hurt by a 42 percent drop in Cruze sales.

Stronger demand for imports, which made up 54.9 percent of all sales in January, helped lift overall numbers.

Toyota Canada Inc, a unit of Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), said its sales climbed 10.6 percent to 10,439 vehicles across its Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. Gains included a 221 percent jump in record RAV4 sales of 2,160 vehicles, and a 50 percent increase in TCI truck sales, to 5,869.

Sales at Honda Motor Co Ltd’s (7267.T) Canadian operation rose 10 percent to 6,820 vehicles.

In the United States, four of the top five U.S. auto sellers blamed tough winter weather for disappointing sales, but analysts and executives forecast a rebound in February and March.

Ford, GM, Toyota and Honda all saw U.S. auto sales plummet in January, missing analysts’ estimates for the month. Sales results were mixed for other companies and brands, with Chrysler and Nissan reporting increases and topping forecasts.

Total industry sales in January, as compiled by Reuters from the manufacturers, fell 3.1 percent to 1,011,188 vehicles.

Editing by Matthew Lewis and Sofina Mirza-Reid

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