TORONTO - Boosted by rich incentives and a booming economy, new-vehicle sales in Canada jumped 8.1 percent in 1999 to 1.5 million units, the second-best year ever.
Production surged 30 percent to a record 3.045 million units.
Car sales rose 9 percent to 810,561 units to account for 54 percent of the total market, while truck sales rose 7 percent to 690,413.
Scotia Bank senior economist and auto industry specialist Carlos Gomes predicts that the strong market will continue this year and next because of replacement demand.
Sales should rise to 1.52 million units this year and to 1.54 million next year, Gomes says.
'We're seeing replacement demand really kicking in,' he says.
'But the underlying economic fundamentals also are there. Incentives, as they are thrown in, just give the industry that extra push.'
Industry consultant Dennis DesRosiers says Canada is the only major country in the world that bought fewer new vehicles in the 1990s than in the 1980s. Americans bought 10 percent more; Canadians 3 percent fewer, he said.
'There's only one word to describe our vehicle fleet - decrepit,' he says. 'That's why people are being forced back into the market.'
Among the three traditional North American brands, General Motors sales jumped 11.6 percent over a year earlier and Ford of Canada rose 4.4 percent. Chrysler slipped 1.6 percent.
Combined, the Big 3 finished the year with a 68.1 percent market share, down more than a point from 69.5 percent in 1998. That share was eaten by Japanese nameplates, which increased their share to 24.3 percent.
European and Korean makes also improved share.
Mazda led all import brands with a 45 percent increase, followed by a 31.5 percent improvement at Jaguar; 31.3 percent at Hyundai; 29.6 percent at Mercedes-Benz; and 20.5 percent at Suzuki.