Rapidly escalating fuel prices in Canada - now about $4.50 (U.S.) for the equivalent of a U.S. gallon - haven't slowed car sales, but the Canadian industry is watching with concern.
February new-car and light-truck sales totaled 95,613, up 8.7 percent over 1999. Sales kept the strength of January and moved the two-month total to 186,837, up 8.5 percent over last year.
'Our industry call is for 1.54 million, maybe even higher,' says Larry Latta, vice president of sales and service for DaimlerChrysler Canada. He says the economy is growing, consumer confidence is high and pent-up demand remains a factor. High fuel prices are the unknown factor.
Latta says the price of fuel has not had any effect, but he doesn't discount an impact if the situation continues.
'It's a little early,' he says. 'We'll have to wait and see. I don't have a crystal ball any better than anybody else. We hope they go down and don't cause any interruption in what looks like it could be another very good year.'
Chrysler group sales (Chrysler-Dodge-Plymouth-Jeep) rose 20.9 percent in February, based on a 19.6 percent jump in car sales and a 21.5 percent increase on the truck side.
Ford Motor sales increased 15.8 percent, with passenger cars climbing 46.5 percent, and trucks 2.8 percent. General Motors sales dipped 6.1 percent in February. Cars sales were off 13.2 percent, and truck sales rose 4.6 percent.
Among the Japanese, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Subaru were up, and Toyota and Suzuki were down.