July 3, 2008 / 2:00 AM / in 9 years

Canadian auto sales fall in June, but Toyota rises

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian auto sales were lower in June with another sharp skid at General Motors of Canada as rising gas prices weighed on demand for SUVs and light trucks, according to company figures released on Wednesday.

But Toyota Canada Inc. bucked the overall drop in sales and gobbled up more market share as consumers snapped up its fleet of fuel-friendly vehicles.

Canadian auto sales fell 5.7 percent year-on-year to 159,500 vehicles in June after a 0.5 percent drop in May, a sharp turnaround from the double-digit gains recorded in January and February.

“A soft month from last year but then last year was the best June on record so it was going to be very difficult to eclipse,” Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consulting Inc, wrote in a note. “The market is slowing though and we don’t expect the strong sales from the early months to continue.”

Sales at GM Canada, the country’s biggest automaker, slid 23.8 percent in June to 32,355 vehicles from 42,466 in the same month last year.

GM Canada, which was coming off a 20 percent drop in sales in May, said its truck sales, which include sales of SUVs and minivans, skidded 35.3 percent to 14,243, while its car sales fell 11.5 percent to 18,122.

Ford Motor Co. of Canada said it sold 22,001 vehicles in June, down 13.7 percent from 25,485 a year earlier. Truck sales decreased 17.7 percent, while car sales fell 2.9 percent.

Chrysler Canada, which has more focus on passenger cars than trucks, bucked the trend set by its Big Three Detroit peers with a 1 percent gain in sales to 22,194 vehicles in June for its 23rd straight month of gains.

Toyota said it set a June sales record as it moved 22,428 units off its lots, a gain of 8.8 percent from a year earlier.

The automaker said sales at its Toyota division increased 8 percent to 20,871, while its luxury Lexus division sold 1,557 vehicles for a gain of 22 percent.

Honda Canada Inc., which had a monthly sales record in May, said it sold 16,518 units in June, a 2 percent slide from the same month in 2007.

The automaker said sales at its Honda division decreased 1 percent to 14,918 units, while sales in its Acura division fell 15 percent to 1,600 units.

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