By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Automakers sold a record number of cars in Canada last month and pushed total vehicle sales year-to-date to a new record, according to industry data released on Tuesday, with Ford Motor Co's Canadian unit outselling all its competitors.
September auto sales beat the previous record by a sizable margin, climbing 4.2 percent to 149,092, even as several major automakers underperformed the industry. Total sales so far this year climbed 3.5 percent to 1,350,756, also a record.
"With any sort of decent market performance during the last three months total sales in Canada should beat the all-time record recorded in 2002 of 1.703 million units," wrote independent auto industry expert Dennis DesRosiers, of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.
"We are currently tracking at 30K units above this level."
Ford Canada, which leads in industry sales so far this year with a 2.7 percent rise to 225,112, said sales surged 10 percent last month to 25,956. This was the second best September on record for the maker of the Ford Focus.
Car sales jumped 14.5 percent to 5,719, with the new Fiesta model seeing a 64 percent sales increase. Fusion sales rose 20 percent. Ford truck sales gained 8.8 percent to 20,237.
Chrysler Group's Canadian arm extended its year-over-year sales growth streak last month, selling the most cars for that month in 13 years, but underperformed the industry.
The automaker sold 19,858 vehicles last month, 1.5 percent more than in the same period last year. Year to date, total sales were up 6.5 percent.
Car sales edged up 0.4 percent to 3,616, while truck sales rose 1.8 percent to 16,242. Several Chrysler models posted sales declines, but an increase in Dodge car and Chrysler truck models helped offset the drops.
In contrast to this month's record industry sales, General Motors Co in Canada posted a 2.6 percent decline during the month to 18,270. Year-to-date, GM Canada was still tracking 2.1 percent growth in vehicle sales.
The Detroit automaker took the biggest hit in the passenger car category, stumbling 7.6 percent to 5,465. Truck sales eased 0.3 percent to 12,805.
Toyota Canada reported record sales for its cars, trucks and Lexus luxury unit, bolstered in part by new models of the Canadian-built Corolla and RAV4. September sales gained 2.6 percent to 17,268 cars and trucks sold.
Sales for Honda's Canadian arm outperformed the broader market, advancing 8 percent from a year ago to 13,964 as sales of its Fit and Accord models doubled from September 2012. Total sales are up 11.2 percent so far this year to 121,890 units sold.
DesRosiers noted that some of the best performers were from the smaller and mid-sized vehicles brands, like Jaguar , Land Rover and Subaru.
In the United States, consumer demand for new vehicles cooled slightly, as expected, with Ford topping analysts' expectations and GM falling short. It was the industry's first year-on-year sales decline in more than two years.
The annual U.S. auto sales rate was 15.28 million vehicles, the slowest since April and down considerably from 16.09 million in August, but close to what many analysts had expected. Overall U.S. auto sales fell 4.2 percent in September to 1.14 million vehicles, according to industry research firm Autodata.