September 1, 2015 / 3:36 PM / 3 years ago

Light truck demand boosts mixed Canada auto sales in August

TORONTO (Reuters) - A healthy appetite for light trucks pushed auto sales in Canada to a monthly record in August, with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCHA.MI) nudging out Ford Motor Co (F.N) as the top seller, according to data released on Thursday.

A Fiat Chrysler assembly worker walks past a Dodge Grand Caravan minivan on the final production line at the Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ontario, February 9, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Fiat Chrysler Canadian sales edged up 0.4 percent to take the No.1 spot by 349 units, while Ford’s sales fell 5 percent. General Motors Co’s (GM.N) sales, meanwhile, jumped a healthy 12 percent.

Overall sales nudged 2.2 percent higher to 175,512 cars and light trucks, making it the strongest August on record. Year-to-date sales were up 2.3 percent at 1,285,959 vehicles.

The mixed performance came as new data showed the Canadian economy shrank in the second quarter, putting the country in recession as a plunge in oil prices cut investment. But growth picked up in June, underscoring expectations the recession will be short-lived.

“Despite warnings and indeed some recent news stating that the Canadian economy may cool, the appetite for new light vehicles continued to set records in August,” DesRosiers Automotive Consultants wrote in a note to clients.

Light truck sales were up 10 percent, accounting for 60.9 percent of the market in August, with passenger cars making up the remaining 39.1 percent.

GM sold 24,653 cars and trucks in Canada, up from 22,111 a year earlier, as truck sales jumped 14.6 percent, and car sales rose 3.2 percent.

Ford’s Canadian sales fell to 26,581 vehicles, down from 27,969 a year earlier, hurt by declines in both car and truck sales.

Fiat Chrysler sold 26,928 cars and trucks in August, up from 26,825 a year earlier. Jeep sales rose 9.2 percent, while Dodge brand truck sales were up 10.1 percent, but Fiat Chrysler’s total car sales dropped 19 percent to 2,036 vehicles.

U.S. auto sales were stronger than expected in August, boosted by pickup truck and SUV sales. Analysts had expected sales to decline.

Toyota Canada, a division of Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), said sales were down 1.1 percent at 18,292 vehicles, with lower Toyota and Scion sales outweighing record Lexus sales.

Honda Canada, part of Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T), reported an 11 percent increase in sales, to 17,277 vehicles, helped in part by its CR-V crossover utility vehicle.

Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Julie Gordon in Vancouver; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker

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