TORONTO -- Ford Motor Co. of Canada was alone among Canada's Big 3 carmakers to report higher March and first-quarter sales on Tuesday as worries over the war in Iraq, concerns over the slowing North American economy and a growing preference for imports slowed showroom traffic.
Bearing the brunt of the losses was DaimlerChrysler Canada. The Windsor, Ontario-based automaker said it sold 19,697 vehicles in March, a 13.2 percent drop from the 22,689 it sold in March 2002.
The steepest decline was in truck sales, which fell 20.8 percent to 13,668, while car sales rose 11.2 percent to 6,029.
For the first quarter, its car and truck sales were down 14.2 percent.
General Motors of Canada, the largest of Canada's Big 3, said March sales were 42,427, down 3 percent from 43,735 for the same month a year earlier.
The company, which is based in Oshawa, Ontario, said car sales dropped to 20,133 in March, down 10.4 percent from 22,463 for the same month a year earlier. However, truck sales rose to 22,294, up 4.8 percent from 21,272 for the year-ago period.
For the three-month period General Motors Canada reported a 15.1 percent decline in vehicle sales.
Ford Motor Co. of Canada said it sold 24,386 vehicles during the month, up 0.3 percent from the 24,308 cars and trucks for the same period last year.
The Oakville, Ontario-based company said car sales were 7,254 in March, down 9.3 percent from 7,999 vehicles during the same period a year earlier. Truck sales were 17,132 during the month, up 5 percent from 16,309.
For the first three months of the year, Ford reported a 1.5 percent gain in combined sales.
Consumers showed reluctance to make the purchases as concerns over the effects of the war in Iraq and the slumping North American economy chipped away at consumer confidence.
Dennis DesRosiers, an independent auto analyst, said sales for domestic and import companies combined were impressive, but noted the Big 3 continued to lose ground to the imports.
"The Big 3 continue to lose a little bit of market share to the import nameplates and it's the Big 3 with the big incentive programs on their products. So you really have to wonder what they're going to have to do to turn around their market share losses," he said.
Among the import car companies, Toyota Canada reported a year-over-year increase of 8.4 percent for March, Volkswagen Canada reported a 9.6 percent increase and Audi Canada said sales grew 15.4 percent.
Both General Motors and Chrysler launched aggressive consumer incentive programs in the United States this week that included 0 percent financing. Although these programs have not yet arrived in Canada, DesRosiers said it is only a matter of time before the Canadian manufacturers follow suit.