Ford leads record Canadian auto sales; GM sales slide


By Solarina Ho

TORONTO, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Automakers sold a record numberof cars in Canada last month and pushed total vehicle salesyear-to-date to a new record, according to industry datareleased on Tuesday, with Ford Motor Co's Canadian unitoutselling all its competitors.

September auto sales beat the previous record by a sizablemargin, climbing 4.2 percent to 149,092, even as several majorautomakers underperformed the industry. Total sales so far thisyear climbed 3.5 percent to 1,350,756, also a record.

"With any sort of decent market performance during the lastthree months total sales in Canada should beat the all-timerecord recorded in 2002 of 1.703 million units," wroteindependent auto industry expert Dennis DesRosiers, ofDesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

"We are currently tracking at 30K units above this level."

Ford Canada, which leads in industry sales so far this yearwith a 2.7 percent rise to 225,112, said sales surged 10 percentlast month to 25,956. This was the second best September onrecord for the maker of the Ford Focus.

Car sales jumped 14.5 percent to 5,719, with the new Fiestamodel seeing a 64 percent sales increase. Fusion sales rose 20percent. Ford truck sales gained 8.8 percent to 20,237.

Chrysler Group's Canadian arm extended itsyear-over-year sales growth streak last month, selling the mostcars for that month in 13 years, but underperformed theindustry.

The automaker sold 19,858 vehicles last month, 1.5 percentmore than in the same period last year. Year to date, totalsales were up 6.5 percent.

Car sales edged up 0.4 percent to 3,616, while truck salesrose 1.8 percent to 16,242. Several Chrysler models posted salesdeclines, but an increase in Dodge car and Chrysler truck modelshelped offset the drops.

In contrast to this month's record industry sales, GeneralMotors Co in Canada posted a 2.6 percent decline duringthe month to 18,270. Year-to-date, GM Canada was still tracking2.1 percent growth in vehicle sales.

The Detroit automaker took the biggest hit in the passengercar category, stumbling 7.6 percent to 5,465. Truck sales eased0.3 percent to 12,805.

Toyota Canada reported record sales for its cars,trucks and Lexus luxury unit, bolstered in part by new models ofthe Canadian-built Corolla and RAV4. September sales gained 2.6percent to 17,268 cars and trucks sold.

Sales for Honda's Canadian arm outperformed thebroader market, advancing 8 percent from a year ago to 13,964 assales of its Fit and Accord models doubled from September 2012.Total sales are up 11.2 percent so far this year to 121,890units sold.

DesRosiers noted that some of the best performers were fromthe smaller and mid-sized vehicles brands, like Jaguar, Land Rover and Subaru.

In the United States, consumer demand for new vehiclescooled slightly, as expected, with Ford topping analysts'expectations and GM falling short. It was the industry's firstyear-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 millionin August, but close to what many analysts had expected. OverallU.S. auto sales fell 4.2 percent in September to 1.14 millionvehicles, according to industry research firm Autodata.

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