January was dismal for Canadian car sales despite gains in its truck division helping Toyota to a record month and General Motors Canada notching up a modest rise.

According to Reuters, industry watchers said a traditionally soft month - January is historically the worst for car sales - was compounded by a reluctance among customers to visit dealerships.

"Canadians have overbought in the last few years and there's just very little that can get them out of their funk right now," independent industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers told the news agency, adding: "We're going to have to live with lower vehicle sales."

DesRosiers added that, based on preliminary figures, January 2004 looks like being the worst month for car sales since 1998, with the overall market down by 11.5% compared with the previous year.

Reuters said that Toyota increased its combined car and truck sales 4.6% to 8,857.

"Product, product and product, you'll find, is the secret to all of the successes in the auto sector, and Toyota is just phenomenal with their product programmes right now," DesRosiers told the news agency.

Toyota Canada managing director Tony Wearing reportedly said the firm was making "important gains" in the truck market, racking up record sales of its full-sized Tundra pickup, thanks in part to the January launch of the double-cab model.

General Motors also posted a gain in January as combined vehicle sales rose 2.4% from a year earlier - car sales climbed a modest 0.4% to 13,745, while truck sales rose a more solid 4.7% to 12,585.

Reuters said Ford Canada saw a one-third slump in volume last month, shifting 2,473 cars (down 47.4%) while truck sales were off 27.3% at 8,010.

DaimlerChrysler Canada combined vehicles sales declined 12% to 12,224 in January as car sales fell 23% to 2,746 and truck sales slowed 8.2% to 9,478, Reuters added.