UPDATED: 6/3/14 5:53 pm ET - adds overall figures
TORONTO (Reuters) -- Ford edged out Chrysler for the top spot in May sales in Canada by 256 units as the country set an all-time monthly light-vehicle sales record. For the year to date, Chrysler still holds a lead of 7,314 vehicles over Ford in Canada.
A 12.1 percent surge in truck demand helped lift May vehicle sales by 5.7 percent to the record of 195,571 vehicles, said Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. The boost in truck sales offset a 1.7 percent drop in car sales during the month.
"We hold to our fundamental belief that the Canadian market bought light vehicles below its potential, and indeed its need for transportation, for a number of years," DesRosiers wrote in a report. "Even though we are in record territory, there is still room to grow, albeit slightly."
Ford of Canada said it sold 31,754 vehicles in May while Chrysler Group said it delivered 31,498 units during the month. Ford's results were down 2.3 percent from the same month last year while Chrysler posted an 8 percent gain.
Truck sales for Ford grew by 1.1 percent to 23,802 vehicles, but car sales slipped 11.2 percent to 7,952 vehicles, the company said. So far this year, total sales have dropped 4.8 percent to 112,265 Ford-branded vehicles.
The company set May sales records for its Escape small SUV and F-150 truck, and recorded its best ever monthly sales for the Explorer SUV.
Chrysler Canada said it set all-time monthly sales records for its Ram and Jeep brands and a May sales record for its Canadian-built Dodge Grand Caravan.
The monthly sales maintain Chrysler Canada's position as the country's top-selling automotive company for 2014, it said, with total year-to-date sales up 6 percent at 119,579 vehicles.
General Motors said its sales in Canada grew 12 percent to 26,444 vehicles in May. It was GM's best May since 2009 and its best total sales since June 2011, the company said. Retail sales rose 16 percent.
GM also said it is offering an employee pricing program in Canada "to customers on virtually all of its Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles."
Overall, May sales were 10,000 units ahead of the previous record set in May 2007 and pushed the seasonally adjusted annual rate to 1.86 million vehicles, he added. Year-to-date sales were up 2.9 percent, to 732,666 vehicles, marking the second-best January-to-May sales period ever.
Gains for larger brands were led by Nissan Motor Co.'s 28.9 percent jump in sales, the consultant wrote, followed by a 12.4 percent increase at Honda Motor Co.
Monthly sales at Toyota Canada Inc. rose 1 percent, to 22,465 vehicles, partly lifted by a 6 percent gain in truck sales, to an all-time record of 9,963 vehicles.
Several smaller brands blew by previous sales records, DesRosiers wrote, pointing to a 40.8 percent jump for Land Rover, a 38.9 percent sales increase for Jaguar and a 32.2 percent climb for Porsche.
U.S. auto sales rose 11 percent to 1.6 million light vehicles, resulting in an annualized selling rate of 16.8 million units -- the highest since July 2006.
Philip Nussel of Automotive News contributed to this report.