By Allison Martell
TORONTO, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Major automakers reported their best ever Canadian sales performance last year, with Ford Motor Co holding on to the top sales spot for 2014, despite a late surge by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Canadian unit.
Chrysler Canada sold 21,613 cars and trucks in December, 40 percent more than a year earlier and wrapped up the best unit sales year in its 90-year history. Chrysler’s sales beat Ford’s in October and November.
Even so, Ford was the country’s top-selling automaker for the fifth straight year. Its sales jumped 40 percent to 22,640 for December and rose 3 percent to 291,951 for the full year. Chrysler’s 2014 sales increased 12 percent to 290,004.
“The battle for best-selling vehicle company remained tight all year,” DesRosiers Automotive Consultants said in a note to clients. “Ford moved into the number one position in September and didn’t look back.”
DesRosiers said the 1.85 million vehicles sold in Canada topped the previous record from 2013 by more than 100,000.
The news came as automakers reported strong U.S. sales for December, boosted by falling gasoline prices, but executives cautioned that growth could slow in 2015 after five years of recovery from the recession.
General Motors Co’s Canadian unit sold 13 percent more vehicles in December than a year earlier, and full-year sales rose 6.3 percent to take third spot.
Toyota Motor Corp’s Canadian unit was fourth, up 2.8 percent at 200,851. In December, it barely improved on a year ago, notching truck sales gains that offset a slip in car sales.
Seven manufacturers - Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, Toyota, Honda Motor Co Ltd, Hyundai Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co Ltd - sold more than 100,000 vehicles in Canada in 2014.
GM Canada sold 19,247 vehicles in December and 249,800 over the full year. Car sales jumped 22.9 percent in December, and truck sales rose 9.1 percent. The full-year sales gains were more evenly split, with a 6.5 percent increase for cars and 6.2 percent for trucks.
Sales of Ford’s popular F-Series pickup trucks rose 37 percent for December as the 2015 F-150 went on sale. Trucks made up nearly 80 percent of Ford’s Canadian sales in 2014.
Chrysler’s full-year results benefited in part from the Jeep Cherokee SUV, whose sales rose more than 600 percent from 2013. The key model started shipping in October 2013, replacing the discontinued Liberty. Overall, Jeep sales rose more than 50 percent. (Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Andre Grenon)