TORONTO - Canadian auto sales rose only marginally in January to 95,639 vehicles from 95,306 in the same month in 2013, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.
But the meagre 0.3 per cent increase masked big gains by many import brands, which overall saw January sales increase 8.5 per cent year over year. That compared with an overall 8.1 per cent decrease for the so-called Detroit brands, DesRosiers said.
"January is always a troubling month for vehicle sales and not necessarily just because of the weather," the consultancy said in a commentary.
It noted that companies can be under tremendous pressure in December to meet specific sales targets and will often go to extraordinary lengths, including the use of aggressive dealer and consumer incentives to bring sales forward.
"We often see double-digit increases in December as sales are pulled forward followed by double-digit decreases in January when reality sets in," it said.
Among the Big Three, General Motors of Canada sales was hurt the most, down 20.1 per cent to 10,991 cars and light trucks from 13,761, followed by Ford of Canada, whose January sales were off 10.1 per cent at 14,526 compared with 16,193 last year.
Chrysler Canada, meanwhile, enjoyed a 3.9 per cent increase to 17,589 vehicles from 16,928, DesRosiers said.
It was the 50th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth for Chrysler's Canadian subsidiary, the longest streak in its history.
Toyota Canada was among the import makes that experienced a big improvement, with overall sales across its three brands up 10.6 per cent for the month to 10,439 vehicles, including 3,981 Toyota cars and 5,347 Toyota trucks.
Sales of Toyota's luxury Lexus brand were up 12.1 per cent at 914, compared with 815 a year ago, while Scion sales totalled 197, down from 290 a year ago.
Honda Canada reported overall sales of 7,732 vehicles, up 7.1 per cent from 7,220 a year ago.
Sales of Honda brand vehicles increased 9.8 per cent to 6,820 vehicles from 6,211 last year, while its luxury Acura division saw sales fall 9.6 per cent to 912 vehicles from 1,009.
Nissan sales rose a whopping 37.1 per cent to 5,624 from 4,101 a year ago, while its luxury Infiniti brand saw sales rise 41.3 per cent to 736 vehicles from 521.
Also doing well was Volkswagen, up 9.2 per cent to 3,683 vehicles from 3,373 and Subaru, up 27.9 per cent at 2,319 from 1,813, while Mazda sales were virtually unchanged, up 0.1 per cent at 3,754 vehicles compared with 3,752 last year.
By contrast, Hyundai sales were off 8.8 per cent at 6,704 from 7,349, although its Kia affiliate saw sales increase 5.7 per cent to 3,883 from 3,673 vehicles.