March 1, 2012 / 7:59 PM / 6 years ago

Auto sales stay strong in February

TORONTO (Reuters) - Auto sales in Canada posted strong gains in February, mirroring sales growth in the United States that topped analyst expectations, as increasing numbers of consumers replaced their vehicles with revamped or fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

Chrysler Canada FIA.MI said it claimed top spot for a second month in a row, with a 9 percent jump in sales over the same period last year to 16,536 vehicles.

Sales were dominated by Ram trucks, which rose 11 percent over February 2011 to a record 4,737. Passenger car sales jumped 126 percent to 2,410, the company said.

“These sales are a testament to the 16 all-new or significantly refreshed products we introduced over the last year, which focused on improved exteriors, new interiors and dramatically better fuel efficiency,” Chrysler Canada’s chief operating officer, Dave Buckingham, said in a statement.

Vehicles sales in Canada were similarly strong in January, helped by a recovery in production at Japanese automakers hit hard by last year’s earthquake and tsunami, and good demand for European brands.

General Motors of Canada (GM.N) said it sold 14,258 vehicles in February, a 16 percent jump from a year earlier. The company said demand for fuel-efficient crossover vehicles rose 41.5 percent and passenger car sales climbed 5.8 percent.

In the United States, auto sales have benefited in recent months from consumers’ need to replace aging vehicles, which many delayed during the economic downturn. Higher consumer confidence and easier credit have also helped sales.

Ford of Canada (F.N) bucked the trend, with February sales declining 3.9 percent from last year to 15,461 vehicles.

Car sales fell 10.7 percent to 3,307, while truck sales dipped 1.8 percent to 12,154.

Honda Canada (7267.T) said its February sales climbed 14 percent over the same period last year to 8,883 vehicles.

Reporting By Susan Taylor; editing by Rob Wilson

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