April 1, 2015 / 8:14 PM / 4 years ago

Canadian auto sales edge higher in March

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian auto sales rose in March from a year earlier, industry data showed on Wednesday, even as several major manufacturers, including General Motors Co (GM.N) and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), reported declines.

New cars are seen at the Toyota plant in Cambridge, March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Automakers sold 160,274 cars and trucks in Canada, up 1.9 percent from March 2013, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, despite an economic slowdown in the oil-rich province of Alberta, which has been hit by the plunge in crude prices.

“Sales year-to-date are up 2.7 percent so the concerns about Alberta dragging down the entire vehicle market in Canada are so far unfounded,” DesRosiers said in a note to clients.

GM’s Canadian sales fell to 21,027 cars and trucks from 21,790 vehicles a year earlier as car sales dropped 30.8 percent to 5,404 vehicles. Truck sales rose 11.7 percent. GM said the gain reflected a market shift from cars to trucks and crossovers.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCHA.MI) Canadian unit sold 25,060 vehicles, up 1.7 percent from a year earlier. Sales of its Ram truck brand jumped 24 percent, more than offsetting a decline in car sales.

“The Ram brand continues to be one of the key determinants in our sales growth,” Fiat Chrysler Canada Chief Operating Officer Dave Buckingham said in a release.

Ram sales rose to 10,008 trucks from 8,075, while car sales slipped 5.5 percent to 3,279 vehicles.

Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) Canadian sales fell 4.6 percent to 21,380 vehicles, as car sales dropped 7.9 percent and truck sales fell 3.6 percent. The company said a shortage of inventory for some popular vehicles hurt sales.

Toyota Canada sold 16,805 cars and trucks in March, down from 17,397 in March 2013. Sales of Toyota-brand passenger car fell to 6,736 from 7,809.

In contrast to Canada, Toyota was a strong performer last month in the United States, where demand for new vehicles rose 0.6 percent to 1.55 million.

Honda Canada’s sales fell 4 percent to 14,749 vehicles.

“Traffic to our Canadian dealer network was below what we would expect in March,” senior vice president Dave Gardner said in a release. “This was particularly evident in the Atlantic provinces, as the impact of extreme weather set new car buying as a low priority for people, as one would expect.”

Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama; and Peter Galloway

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