New light vehicle sales in Canada came in at 157,060 units, up 0.2% from a year ago and the second best March on record (after 2012), DesRosiers Automotive Consultants said.

"Now, being up by a sliver isn’t shooting the lights out but when put in the context of a 'never ending' winter and strong year-ago sales, then current sales levels should be applauded rather than scorned," the consultancy said.

March sales brought year to date sales to 358,392 units, up 0.9%.

"Again, not spectacular, but very strong by historical standards. We are now entering the peak selling season and the next three months will tell us a lot as to whether this will be another record year," DesRosiers said.

Results across brands were "very mixed" with some double digit declines for the month with Volkswagen down 31.6%, Mazda down 19.8%, BMW down 10.4%, Mitsubishi down 11.5% and Ford down 10.7%.

But there were also a number of double digit increases led by Tata Motors' Jaguar up 43.2% and sister company Land Rover up 25.5%. Nissan was up 26.4% and Subaru was up 11.5%.

Most of the big guns in the industry (four of the top five) boosted sales, bringing the total industry count into positive territory.

General Motors was up 7.8%, Toyota was up 4.9% and Honda was up 5.4%. Although Chrysler/Fiat were up only 1.5% this continued their very long streak of month over previous year month increases which now stands at 52 months. It also gave Chrysler/Fiat a sizable lead over Ford for the best-selling manufacturer in Canada. Chrysler/Fiat started 2013 with a lead over Ford but was overtaken later in the year. This year Chrysler/Fiat has a sizable lead so Ford has their work cut out for them.

"General Motors remains an enigma … up when many expect them to be down and down when many expect them to be up. GM is down 4.6% for the year but had a strong March with a 7.8% gain.  A tough company to predict these days," Des Rosiers said.

It added that perhaps the biggest ongoing dynamic is the strength in the light truck market with sales up 5.1% in March while passenger car sales were down 5.7%. A similar trend can be seen year to date … truck up 6.3% and car down 6.2%.

In the luxury category Mercedes Benz was the leader with sales up 0.2% for the month and 7.6% year to date. Audi was up for the month and YTD and Porsche was up as well.

Japanese luxury brands, Lexus, Infiniti and Acura, were also all up "nicely".

"Even little Volvo has turned the corner with positive sales for the month and year to date. The one luxury brand with declining sales is BMW which was down by 10.4% for March and down 1.3% YTD."


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