TORONTO - Sales of light vehicles in Canada slipped 1.3 percent in March after gaining slightly the month before.
A total of 146,218 light vehicles were sold. That put Canada's total for the first three months of the year 4.9 percent behind a record first quarter in 2002.
Last year's start turned into a record sales year in Canada.
This year's monthly results have been marked by storm, then calm. In January, volume fell 15.2 percent from a strong January 2002. February was up 1.0 percent; March was down 1.3 percent.
Big 3 brands continue to bear the brunt of the decline in Canada.
Their combined numbers for the first quarter were down 11.5 percent, while sales of European brands increased 6.1 percent and Japanese makes rose 6.6 percent.
In March, Ford Motor Co.'s sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products were up just 0.4 percent, thanks to a 5.1 percent increase in truck sales. Ford's car sales were down 9.3 percent.
So far this year, the company is down 1.5 percent.
General Motors' March sales declined 3.2 percent, with cars off 10.4 percent and trucks up 4.5 percent. Its first-quarter sales were down 15.3 percent from year-ago levels.
Chrysler group sales in March dropped 13.2 percent, brought down by a 21.2 percent drop in truck sales. Car volumes were up 6.6 percent. Overall sales are down 14.2 percent for the quarter.
Import rivals Toyota and Honda had vastly different months with Toyota Division up 9.3 percent while Honda Division saw sales figures reduced by 8.3 percent.
Both Lexus and Acura sales also declined while a resurgent Infiniti's numbers climbed 60.6 percent. Its sales are up 83.7 percent this year. Nissan Division sales also were strong, up 17.3 percent for the month and 6.9 percent for the quarter.