September 1, 2016 / 3:58 PM / 3 years ago

Canadian 2016 auto sales seen at record despite two-month slump

MONTREAL, TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian auto sales are on pace to set a record in 2016 despite falling for a second consecutive month in August, as low oil prices and consumer demand for light trucks and crossover vehicles drive the market, forecasts said on Thursday.

The new Ford Flex and the Ford Edge share this assembly line at the company's Oakville Plant June 3, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill

Ford Motor Co (F.N) reported that its Canadian sales rose 9 percent in August, even as rivals Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCHA.MI) and General Motors Co (GM.N) reported declines.

Overall sales of new vehicles totaled 172,034 in August, a 2 percent decline on an annual basis, analyst Dennis DesRosiers wrote in a note to clients. Combined with a dip in July, it was the first time in three years that sales dropped for two consecutive months, he said.

While weaker employment has started to cool demand, Scotiabank senior economist Carlos Gomes said he still expects automakers to beat last year’s record Canadian sales of 1.90 million units, a forecast DesRosiers agreed with.

“We’ve seen some softening on the employment numbers in Canada and that’s important for the auto sector outlook,” said Gomes, who in a June report wrote that he expected auto sales to reach 1.96 million vehicles in 2016.

Ford said on Thursday its sales rose to 28,987 vehicles in August, compared with 26,581 units during the same month last year, fueled by increased demand for trucks.

GM, meanwhile, said its sales fell 8.5 percent on an annual basis to 22,547 vehicles and Fiat Chrysler said its sales plunged 20 percent to 21,627 vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler’s results were calculated using a new method, in line with reporting changes in the United States, amid an investigation by U.S. regulators into claims the company inflated sales data.

In a statement on Thursday, Fiat Chrysler announced the revision of more than five years of monthly vehicle sales data. The automaker’s Canadian subsidiary had reported 79 consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth in Canada, starting in 2009, but under the company’s new reporting method the streak ended in April 2012.

In July, total industry auto sales in Canada dipped nearly 3 percent compared with the same month a year earlier.

U.S. auto sales fell in August and some major automakers said on Thursday a long-expected sales decline had probably begun.

Reporting by Allison Martell and Allison Lampert; Editing by Tom Brown and Alan Crosby

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