February 16, 2008 / 1:39 AM / 10 years ago

Auto sales rebound in December

TORONTO (Reuters) - Sales of new motor vehicles in Canada rose 4.8 percent in December from November, rebounding from three months of declines, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

Overall, 140,270 new vehicles were sold in December, according to seasonally adjusted data from Statscan’s New Motor Vehicle Sales Survey.

Despite a downward trend in the second half of the year, Statscan said there were more new motor vehicles sold in 2007 than in 2006.

The federal statistical agency said it will release the 2007’s revised seasonally adjusted data in April.

Ted Carmichael, chief economist at J.P. Morgan Canada, said in a note that sales for 2007 were up 1.5 percent over 2006, at 1.69 million units.

“It was the second highest annual level, falling short of the record 2002 sales of 1.733 million units,” Carmichael said.

Statscan said preliminary industry data suggested new motor vehicle sales will show strong growth in January, mainly due to passenger car sales.

Canadians are getting a bigger bang for their buck as dealers have responded to public pressure due to the rise of the Canadian dollar, which appreciated around 17.5 percent in 2007. That will likely be reflected in January’s sales data, said Carmichael.

“Looking forward, our preliminary estimate based on industry reports is that January vehicle sales rose 7 percent month-over-month as vehicle dealers either cut sticker prices or maintained large price incentives,” he said.

Truck sales, which include minivans and sport utility vehicles, climbed 7.7 percent in December, to 71,977 units.

Sales of passenger cars rose 2 percent to 68,293 units.

North American-built passenger cars slid 1.6 percent to 42,937 units.

But overseas-built vehicle sales had their best month of the year, rising 8.5 percent to 25,356 units, and boosting the overall passenger car category.

Nationally, Ontario led December’s rebound in auto sales, rising 8.6 percent.

Sales in Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia rose around 3 percent, while Saskatchewan and New Brunswick sales grew over 6 percent. Sales of new motor vehicles on Prince Edward Island climbed 34.6 percent.

Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador had declines of 3.1 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.

Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Rob Wilson

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