Canada auto sales highest in decade, Ford still tops

Reuters

* Truck sales bolster overall sales in 2013

* Honda Civic again most popular car, Ford's F150 truck top vehicle

* Luxury brands also show strength

By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Canadians bought more vehicles in 2013 than in any year since 2002, as consumers brushed off high debt and a slow economic recovery to buy trucks and luxury models, though icy weather limited December purchases, numbers released on Friday showed.

Industry-wide sales grew 3.8 percent to 113,036 vehicles in December, bringing total sales for the year to 1.74 million, a 4 percent increase, according to independent auto industry firm DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, which collates manufacturer data.

Truck sales jumped 6.9 percent while passenger car sales were almost flat for the year, with the discrepancy even wider in December with truck sales up 14.4 percent and car sales shrinking by 9.7 percent.

Ford Motor Co's Canadian arm sold fewer vehicles in December than a year earlier but held its position as the country's best-selling automaker in 2013 as truck sales helped it notch overall growth of 2.7 percent, the company said.

Chrysler claimed second place, with a 4.7 percent jump in December sales and 6.6 percent growth for the year, helped by record sales of its Ram trucks.

"Overall 2013 goes down as the year of the truck," DesRosiers wrote. "The F150 alone outsells other full-line nameplates including Kia, Mazda and Nissan."

General Motors Co meanwhile posted the biggest gain in December sales, up 17 percent, while taking third place for the year on 4 percent growth. Its Cadillac brand notched 44.6 percent annual sales gains for its best-ever Canadian sales.

Toyota Motor Corp said its luxury Lexus brand had a marquee year that helped the company notch 1.7 percent annual growth and cemented its fourth-place position.

Other luxury brands including Land Rover, Porsche and Jaguar recorded double-digit annual growth.

Ford said it was their best year for Canadian sales since 1997, with the F-Series pickup truck leading all vehicle sales for the fourth straight year. The company's Fusion and Escape models also recorded their best-ever sales.

Honda Motor Co Ltd said its Civic was Canada's top-selling car for the 16th straight year. Honda's monthly sales nudged slightly higher overall to 13,316, but grew 10.4 percent for the year to 164,236.

Ford's total vehicle sales in December slipped 4.2 percent to 16,161, as it sold fewer cars than a year ago. For the year, it sold 283,588 vehicles, an increase of 2.7 percent.

Chrysler, which is owned by Italy's Fiat SpA, sold 15,445 vehicles in December and 260,015 in all of 2013, while GM sold 17,036 vehicles in December and 234,944 in the year. Toyota sold 12,348 vehicles in December and 195,360 in 2013.

Ford said in September that it would invest C$700 million ($659 million) in its Oakville assembly plant as North American demand surged to pre-recession levels.

December sales in the much larger U.S. market came up short of expectations, but 2014 sales are forecast to keep outpacing the overall U.S. economy recovery from recession.

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