TORONTO - Canadians returned to auto dealerships in November, driving the strongest growth in overall vehicle sales since the summer in what is usually a slow sales month for automakers.
Canadian vehicle sales totalled 121,133 units in November, up 4.4 per cent from 115,981 sold a year ago, according to data released by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Thursday.
The improved sales figures are even more impressive considering recent data showing waning consumer confidence and in a month usually sees lacklustre sales due to colder weather and holiday shopping.
This November, buyers were lured by good deals, improving confidence in the economy and the need to trade in older cars.
"Another respectable, although lean, month for light vehicle sales in Canada," Dennis DesRosiers said in his report.
"November was also the best we've seen since November 2006, which is another positive."
But on a seasonally adjusted basis, he said, the volume is essentially flat as it has been for the past 18 months.
"In today's world maybe we should be pleased with stability? Of course it would be nice to see solid growth but all indicators point to a positive, but very hesitant, market going forward," he said.
For the full year, Canadian vehicle sales are up a slight 1.8 per cent. The year has been very uneven for automakers with sales positive one month and negative the next as economic uncertainty pervades consumer sentiment.
November's strong sales came on the back of double digit improvements at Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda, as dealer inventory returned after months of depleted production following Japan's earthquake and tsunami in March.
Toyota Canada sales grew 19.7 per cent to 13,407 units, up from 11,116 a year ago.
"With new vehicles and popular sales events, Toyota dealers from coast-to-coast have delivered a stellar performance over the second half of 2011," said Tony Wearing, managing director at Toyota Canada.
"Having built such momentum, we look forward to ending the year on a high note, with more to come in 2012.”
Honda reported a 16 per cent increase in its sales for November, with 12,655 units sold. The Japanese carmaker said its automobile division sold 11,112 units. Sales in the luxury Acura division rose seven per cent to 1,543 units.
But among the Detroit big three automakers, Chrysler, GM and Ford, Chrysler was the only one to post a gain — giving it the title of Canada's best-selling automaker in November.
Chrysler Canada reported Thursday its best month of sales in November since the same month back in 2001, with total car and truck sales rising six per cent year-over-year to 16,244 units.
Meanwhile, sales at Ford Canada fell 1.5 to 18,087 vehicles and General Motor's sales plunged nearly 11 per cent, according to the DesRosiers figures.
Ford is still Canada's best-selling automaker for 2011, capturing 17 per cent of market share compared to 16 per cent at GM and 13 per cent for Chrysler.
Truck sales rose 6.7 per cent from the month last year, far outpacing the 1.5 per cent increase in car sales as gas price spikes have eased since the summer.
Car companies expected sales to improve as people who held on to cars during the economic downturn returned to the market.
In a study released earlier November, DesRosiers Automotive Consultants found a 20 per cent increase over the past five years in the number of vehicles on the road that are 16 years or older.
There were also 29 per cent more vehicles on the roads that are between five and 10 years old.
Sales also improved significantly south of the border, rising 14 per cent to 994,721, says Autodata Corp.
Chrysler Group LLC's sales rose 45 per cent from a year earlier. At General Motors Co., buyers snapped up small cars and pickup trucks. Ford's sales rose 13 per cent, fuelled by the new Explorer SUV, whose sales more than tripled over last November.