03/03/2015 04:16 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT

Canadian vehicle sales up 3.4% in February

Canadians defied the bitter weather, a lower dollar and the collapse in crude prices to turn up at the auto dealership this February.

February light vehicle sales in Canada increased by 3.4 per cent from last year to 109,248 units across Canada, according to auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers says.

February sales a year ago were weak so beating that number was relatively easy, he said. Nonetheless Fiat Chrysler reported a small one per cent gain in sales and GM sales were 6.4 six per cent. Ford’s Canadian sales were down 7.4 per cent.

Light trucks dominated new vehicle sales, rising by 5.1 per cent and accounting for a record 63.3 per cent of the Canadian market.

Toyota, GM sales up

GM sales saw an increase to 13,806 vehicles in the month, a turnaround for the automaker in the Canadian market.

Toyota sales were up 18.8 per cent from a year earlier, to 13,002 cars and trucks, boosted in part by a jump in sales of its Camry model and the Sienna minivan.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles still is the biggest in the Canadian market, with 18,711 vehicles sold in February, as Jeep and Ram pickup truck sales leaped ahead.

The company said it expects growth to continue as it launches new products in Canada, including the Jeep Renegade. Jeep brand sales rose 2 per cent to 4,282 vehicles in February.

The pickup trucks continue to be popular with buyers, with 6,294 Ram trucks sold, a nine per cent increase.

Ford’s new F-150, with a lighter aluminum body and better fuel economy, also saw a 10 per cent jump in sales, with the F series seeing its best February on record, the company said.

Ford sold 15,025 cars in February, including the redesigned Lincoln series.

“We are seeing positive customer reaction to our recently launched vehicles and look forward to continuing the momentum when the all-new 2015 Ford Edge hits dealerships this spring,” said Dianne Craig, president and CEO, Ford of Canada. 

There were declining sales from Mazda, Mitsubishi, Volvo and Smart car in Canada, but buyers flocked to Volkswagen, Mini and Nissan.

U.S. sales up 5.4 per cent

Several major automakers missed analysts' bullish forecasts for U.S. auto sales, hit by bad weather in February for the second year in a row.

General Motors' sales rose 4.2 per cent over last February, while Chrysler's sales were up 5.6 per cent. Nissan's sales were up 2.7 per cent. All three automakers reported smaller gains than analysts had predicted.

Ford's U.S. sales were down 1.9 per cent, as dealers lacked the inventory to meet demand for the new F-150 pickup truck.

Analysts had predicted an eight per cent increase over a year ago. Instead the sales gain came in at 5.4 per cent.

Most analysts expect sales to pick up later in the year. Credit conditions in the U.S. are easing and there is still pent-up demand for vehicles, according to TD economist Andrew Labelle.

"We fully expect auto sales to pick up in the months ahead. The labour market continues to add jobs at a healthy clip, while real personal disposable income growth over the past three months is the highest its been in two years," he wrote in a note to investors.