DesRosiers said Friday that last year's sales, which topped the previous record of just over 1.7 million in 2002, were up four per cent from 1.67 million in 2012. That was when the industry completed its comeback from the recession, which drove sales down to 1.46 million vehicles in 2009.
Despite weakened sales figures for some automakers in December, the full-year figures showed consumers were "shrugging off record debt levels and a lukewarm economic recovery," DesRosiers said in a commentary.
"December is always an unpredictable month as consumers and manufacturers rush toward year-end, and this year had the ice storm in the eastern half of the country layered on top of the usual volatility."
Leading the way was Ford, which claimed the title of best-selling automaker in Canada for the fourth year in a row.
The auto giant reported that 2013 was its best year in the last 16 as it saw overall car and truck sales increase by almost three per cent.
Ford Canada said it sold 283,588 vehicles last year, compared with 276,068 in 2012, aided by strong demand for its popular F-Series pickup trucks.
Despite the year-over-year gains, the carmaker reported declining sales in December. Total sales last month dropped 4.2 per cent to 16,161, versus 16,874 in December 2012.
Ford's December car sales saw a steep decline of nearly 20 per cent, dropping to 2,923 from 3,628 in December 2012. Yearly sales were almost unchanged, coming in at 68,341.
It says truck sales also fell slightly last month to 13,238 from 13,246. For the year, truck sales climbed 3.5 per cent to 215,247 from 207,961 in 2012.
"The great news for consumers is that 2014 will be another very competitive year in the industry and we look forward to introducing our fantastic new products," said Dianne Craig, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd.
Meanwhile, sales of trucks and vehicles at Chrysler Canada and General Motors also rose last year.
Chrysler Canada says it sold 260,015 vehicles last year, a seven per cent increase over 2012, with strong performances from several of its brands, including Ram pickup trucks.
Chrysler's December sales of cars, minivans, pickup trucks and other light vehicles totalled 15,445 units, a five per cent increase from 14,756 in December 2012.
It sold 5,400 Ram pickup trucks in December, up nine per cent from 4,987 in December 2012, while for the full-year Ram sales climbed 16 per cent to 78,793 from 67,634 in 2012.
“2013 was a great sales year for Chrysler Canada,” said David Buckingham, chief operating officer for Chrysler Canada.
General Motors saw its combined car and truck retail and fleet sales jump 3.6 per cent in 2013 to 234,944 vehicles from 225,825 in 2012. The increase was attributed to a 5.4 per cent hike in truck sales, offset by a 0.4 per cent drop in car sales.
It reported that overall sales last month were also strong, as it delivered 16.5 per cent more vehicles in December — a total of 17,036 compared with 14,623 in December 2012.
Meanwhile, Japanese automaker Toyota Inc. saw a 1.7 per cent jump in total sales as it delivered 195,360 units last year. Its December sales also grew 3.6 per cent to 10,960 units, helped by demand for its RAV4 sport-utility vehicles.
Honda Canada says combined sales from its Honda and Acura division rose 10 per cent last year as the company recorded its best annual sales in five years.
It sold 164,236 cars from both divisions in 2013, with Honda selling 145,231 units and Acura 19,005 units.
For December, Honda saw an overall increase of 0.8 per cent in vehicle sales, with a 1.2 per cent gain in Honda sales to 11,542 units pulled down by a 1.6 per cent drop in Acura sales to 1,774 units.
Nissan also reported that it had its best total sales ever in 2013, as it sold 91,551 vehicles, a 11.4 per cent increase over 2012. For December, it sold 6,896 units from both its Nissan and Infiniti divisions, up 40 per cent from 4,909 in December 2012.
Meanwhile, Korean automaker Hyundai reported record sales of 127,100 vehicles in 2013, up 0.6 per cent from 136,283 in 2012. However, December sales fell 7.1 per cent to 7,304 from 7,863, DesRosiers said.
Kia Canada Inc. said it saw its total annual sales drop 6.9 per cent last year to 72,449. The carmaker had reported record sales in 2012 with 77,800 units.
Volkswagen's yearly sales increased six per cent to 62,668 from 59,132, while December sales surged eight per cent to 4,078 from 3,777.
Subaru said its yearly sales climbed 18.7 per cent to a record 36,760 units in 2013, leading it to claim its the fastest growing Japanese automaker of the year.
"After achieving an all-time sales record in 2012, the bar was set high for 2013, yet Subaru completely outstripped its previous record of 31,003 units with a remarkable 36,760 units sold in 2013," it said.
However, sales for December dropped to 2,704 units from 2,814 in December 2012.
Mazda Canada reported sales of 4,558 vehicles in December, up 28 per cent from the same month last year, while full-year sales totalled 71,859, an increase of 0.3 per cent.