* Chrysler passes General Motors, moves into second place
* Chrysler Canada says 2012 its best sales year since 2000
* Japanese automakers show strong Canadian sales in 2012
Jan 3 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co of Canada was the top-selling automaker in Canada for the third year in a row in 2012 but Chrysler, boosted by demand for its fuel-efficient passenger cars, knocked General Motors from the No. 2 perch.
Ford said on Thursday it sold 276,068 vehicles in Canada last year, just 90 more than it sold in 2011. Its popular line-up of F-Series trucks made up more than 100,000 of the sales, and remained the best-selling vehicle in Canada for the third consecutive year.
Chrysler Canada said its vehicle sales rose 6 percent to 243,845, making it No. 2 in Canadian sales last year, up from third place in 2011.
President and Chief Executive Reid Bigland said Chrysler Canada, had its best retail sales results last year since 2000.
"Our investment in fuel-efficient new vehicles and power trains has propelled us to be the number two seller," Bigland said, forecasting continued strong sales in 2013.
Dianne Craig, president and CEO at Ford of Canada, also said the company was optimistic about growth.
Vehicle sales at General Motors of Canada fell 6.6 percent in 2012 to 226,825, putting it in third place for the year. GM of Canada President and Managing Director Kevin Williams described Canada's auto market as "highly competitive".
Japanese automakers reported strong annual sales growth in 2012 compared to 2011 when the a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan disrupted production and sales. Toyota Canada said its sales rose 18.4 percent to 192,058 while Honda Canada said combined Honda and Acura sales jumped 21 percent to 148,712. The Honda Civic retained its position as Canada's top-selling passenger car for the 15th consecutive year.
For the month of December, sales at Chrysler Canada, which includes its Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Fiat and Ram models, rose 1 percent to 14,756 vehicles. Chrysler Canada is wholly owned by Chrysler Group LLC, which in turn is controlled by Italy's Fiat SpA .
Ford said its vehicle sales slipped 13 percent to 16,874 in December. GM Canada, whose line-up includes Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles, said its sales last month fell 20 percent to 14,623.
In the United States, Detroit's automakers showed December U.S. sales gains of 5 percent, slightly better than analysts' expectations, but likely not enough to stave off market-share gains by Japanese rivals.