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TORONTO, June 3 (Reuters) - Pent-up demand helped drive Canadian auto sales to a monthly record in May, with mass market brands and niche automakers both big winners, an independent auto industry analyst said on Tuesday.
A 12.1 percent surge in truck demand helped lift May vehicle sales by 5.7 percent to 195,571 vehicles, said Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, offsetting a 1.7 percent drop in car sales.
"We hold to our fundamental belief that the Canadian market bought light vehicles below its potential, and indeed its need for transportation, for a number of years," DesRosiers wrote in a report. "Even though we are in record territory, there is still room to grow, albeit slightly."
May sales were 10,000 units ahead of the previous record set in May 2007 and pushed the seasonally adjusted annual rate to 1.86 million vehicles, he added. Year-to-date sales were up 2.9 percent, to 732,666 vehicles, marking the second-best January-to-May sales period ever.
Gains for larger brands were led by Nissan Motor Co's 28.9 percent jump in sales, the consultant wrote, followed by a 12.4 percent increase at Honda Motor Co Ltd , an 11.8 percent gain at General Motors Co and 8 percent lift at Chrysler.
Ford Motor Co of Canada Ltd was the country's top auto seller in May, despite a 2.3 decline in sales to 31,754 vehicles, with Chrysler Canada a close second with 31,498 vehicles.
Ford truck sales rose 1.1 percent, but car sales slipped 11.2 percent. So far this year, total sales are down 4.8 percent to 112,265 vehicles.
Chrysler Canada said it maintained its position as the country's top-selling automotive company for 2014, with year-to-date sales up 6 percent at 119,579 vehicles.
GM Canada sales rose to 26,444 vehicles, marking its best May since 2009 as truck sales jumped 16.1 percent and car sales climbed 3.8 percent. Year-to-date sales are 1 percent higher at 97,641 vehicles.
Monthly sales at Toyota Canada Inc rose 1 percent, to 22,465 vehicles, partly lifted by a 6 percent gain in truck sales, to an all-time record of 9,963 vehicles.
Several smaller brands blew by previous sales records, DesRosiers wrote, pointing to a 40.8 percent jump for Land Rover, 38.9 percent sales increase for Jaguar and 32.2 percent climb for Porsche.
In the United States, automakers reported higher-than-expected new car sales of 1.6 million in May, with rising consumer demand underpinning a broader economic recovery.
The auto industry in May recorded its strongest annual sales rate since before the 2008 recession, as transaction prices remained strong and discounts did not increase.
Industry sales rose 11.3 percent to 1,606,264 vehicles. (Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Bernadette Baum and James Dalgleish)