TORONTO - Overcoming the drag of a steep decline by Ford of Canada and flat sales at General Motors, new-vehicle sales in Canada started the year with an 8.4 percent gain.
Sales in January rose to 91,215 units as cars rose 9 percent, to 46,361, and light trucks gained 7.8 percent, to 44,854. Japanese and Korean nameplates posted major gains over the year-earlier month, with Hyundai up 86.5 percent; Mazda, 49.5 percent; Honda, 24.2 percent; and Subaru, 27 percent.
January marked the 55th consecutive month that Subaru Canada has increased its sales over the year-earlier period, and Joe Anwyll, vice president of sales and marketing, expects the company to finish the year with a 17 percent gain over 1999.
'We're looking for a good year for the industry,' he said. 'The economy's strong, used-car prices are probably higher than they should be, and not everybody who wants to buy a car has bought one.'
Excluding the Mercedes brand, DaimlerChrysler car and truck sales rose 24.8 percent in January, the third straight month of improvement. Car sales were up 16.8 percent, and trucks rose 27.8 percent.
Mercedes car and truck sales rose 11.4 percent.
'The new year is off to a fantastic start,' said R.M. Latta, vice president of sales and service.
General Motors sales edged up 0.3 percent, or 100 units, over a year earlier. Ford's combined sales were off 6.6 percent for the month, with passenger cars down 14.9 percent and trucks off 2.4 percent.
With the exceptions of Isuzu and Suzuki, all Japanese nameplates were up for the month. Among the Europeans, Volkswagen continued on a roll, with sales up 28 percent, while BMW rose 15 percent. But Volvo, Land Rover and Porsche were off sharply.