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Automakers wheeling and dealing

Several auto companies continued to enjoy strong sales in Canada last month, with both domestic and foreign automakers reporting surging sales compared to May 2011.

The numbers suggest pent-up demand appears to be overshadowing any fears about making a big ticket purchase in a shaky economy.

Several big name companies reported double digit increases in a month that compared very favourably on a year-over-year basis, when last March's earthquake in Japan slowed production at Honda and Toyota factories, and dealers ran short of cars by May.

Despite faltering stock markets and consumer confidence, drivers are also buying in droves to replace aging vehicles, a shopping trip that was delayed during the recession.

Ford of Canada reported its best May since 1997, helping it to surpass Detroit Big Three rival Chrysler to regain the position of Canada's top-selling automaker both for May and the year so far.

Ford Canada saw May sales jump 27 per cent to 32,338 vehicles from 25,448 in the same month of 2011.

The automaker said overall car sales rose 31 per cent, driven by strong demand for fuel efficient vehicles. Full-sized pickups saw a 46 per cent increase, powered by sales of its F-150, which saw a 52 per cent jump.

"May was a good growth month for Ford of Canada, with strong sales across the entire lineup of cars, utilities and trucks," said Dianne Craig, president and CEO of Ford of Canada.

Still, Chrysler Canada said it enjoyed its 30th consecutive year-over-year increase in May, with sales rising seven per cent to 26,218 vehicles from 24,406 in May 2011.

"There have only been three months in the last 10 years that have hit the 26,000 sales mark and I'm thrilled to count May 2012 among them," said chief operating officer Dave Buckingham.

The increase in vehicle sales in May gave Chrysler its best retail sales numbers for the calendar year to date since 2002, the company said in a release.

Japanese automakers seemed to rebound thoroughly from supply challenges faced since the country's massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Toyota Canada Inc. said it has regained momentum from "post-tsunami" challenges and saw sales jump to 19,810, a 64.7 per cent increase over May 2011. Sales of its Prius family of hybrids were especially strong, seeing a whopping 804 per cent increase over last May.

Nissan Canada Inc. said it sold 9,204 units, an increase of 36.9 per cent over May 2011.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. recorded a two per cent increase in May sales to 14,249 vehicles from 13,967, its best May ever and 41st consecutive year-over-year monthly increase.

The Canadian Press


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