OTTAWA - Canada's vehicle manufacturers are poised to have their most profitable year in a decade in 2012, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

The Ottawa-based economic forecaster estimates the industry will have $1.35 billion in pre-tax profits this year, its best year since 2002.

"The industry will continue to benefit from brisk growth in vehicle sales, both this year and next," said Michael Burt, director, industrial economic trends.

Burt noted that while Canadian sales are set to surpass their pre-recession level this year, sales in the United States are not expected to return to 2007 volumes until 2014.

"This increasing U.S. demand is expected to lead to a prolonged recovery in Canadian auto exports," he said.

Through the first eight months of 2012, Canadian automotive production rose almost 20 per cent compared with the same period last year, according to the Conference Board report.

Sales in Canada surged 7.1 per cent between January and August of this year and are on track to reach 1.72 million vehicles — the most since 2002.

Across Canada, truck sales continued to outnumber passenger car purchases, particularly in the Prairies where brisk activity in the mining and construction industries is driving sales.

Sales to the U.S. have posted double-digit sales growth three years in a row, culminating in a 15 per cent increase in Canadian exports this year.

Yet, U.S. sales remain 1.7 million units below where they stood in 2007, leaving room for further growth assuming that Congress and the White House take measures to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff" — the combination of big U.S. government spending cuts and the end of Bush-era tax breaks set to kick in automatically at the start of 2013.

Going forward, production growth will slow over the next five years from this year's "torrid pace," with Canadian sales gains limited because demand that built up during the recession "has effectively dried out," the report said.

The Conference Board also noted that General Motors will close one of its Oshawa plants in 2014 and growth in sales will also start to level off in the United States.

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  • <strong>EDDIE ALTERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, <em>CAR AND DRIVER</em></strong> <strong>Current Car:</strong> 1983 Mercedes-Benz 300D <strong>Car Pick:</strong> Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon ($98,950) I need a wagon. Sedans don’t have the room to haul my various creams and unguents, and I’m not about get a faux off-roading crossover—if I’m going to buy something with capabilities I’ll never use, it better actually have those capabilities. Also, I need performance, ideally allied to the sort of vector-locking, road-crushing chassis that Mercedes-Benz makes. But Mercedes only makes one wagon, and so I must choose—via special order—the E-class five-door with the monster engine, enhanced with the performance package. As for gas mileage? Don’t worry, it’s got an Eco mode. <em>COURTESY OF MERCEDES-BENZ.</em>

  • <strong>BRETT BERK, AUTOMOTIVE COLUMNIST, <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>VANITY FAIR</em></a></strong> <strong>Current Cars:</strong> 2004 BMW 325i Sport, 1972 GMC Suburban 4x4 <strong>Car Pick:</strong> 2013 Audi A7 Prestige ($75,920) No two-seat Porsche Boxster S for me. My boyfriend and our best moviegoing upstate gays require my chauffeuring skills every weekend—as does the local dump. And while I’d prefer a wagon, BMW’s new hatchback 3-er hasn’t yet hatched. But this mesomorphic five-door—Those ravaging eyes! Those swimmer’s thighs!—will do nicely, with class-trumping cargo room, surrounded by pure class. Combine this with all-wheel drive, a powerfully efficient engine, and the world’s most usable infotainment interface, and you have one vehicle that melds, and supersedes, the strengths of both my current rides. I’d slather mine in brown on brown—so darkly chocolate you can taste the bitterness. <em>COURTESY OF AUDI.</em>

  • <strong>ANDREW DEL-COLLE, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, <em>POPULAR MECHANICS</em></strong> <strong>Current Car:</strong> None <strong>Car Pick:</strong> Mini John Cooper Works Convertible ($51,723) As a bigger guy, I naturally gravitate toward smaller cars. Or maybe they gravitate toward me. Either way, a fully loaded, manual John Cooper Works convertible would be my pick at this time in my life. I just moved to Brooklyn, so size is key when parking or slaloming through the NYC streets. And for traveling, I only need enough room to haul me and my girlfriend, and a bag for each of us. More importantly, <em>Have you driven a manual Mini?</em> You won’t stop smiling for days. Toss in the J.C.W.’s 208-hp turbocharged engine and you’ve cooked up pure crack on wheels. <em>COURTESY OF MINI.</em>

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  • <strong>JAKE FISHER, DIRECTOR OF AUTO TESTING, <em>CONSUMER REPORTS</em> CARS</strong> <strong>Current Cars:</strong> Consumer Reports’ test cars <strong>Car Pick:</strong> 2013 Hyundai Veloster ($19,450) Why choose a front-wheel-drive Hyundai with no power? The Veloster is a modern-day Honda CRX. While it’s based on a subcompact, it’s fun to drive, looks cool, is surprisingly functional, and barely uses any gasoline, no matter how hard you beat on it. Plus, there’s lots of room for my kids and their stuff. A Scion FRS may be more fun at speed, but I figure I’ll always own a purpose-built track car, and I’ll still be able afford one—or three—after forking over only $20K for the Veloster. <em>COURTESY OF HYUNDAI.</em>