TORONTO -- Gains in its truck division helped Toyota Canada post record monthly sales while General Motors of Canada notched a modest rise in January, but that failed to rescue a dismal month for Canadian car sales.
Industry watchers said a traditionally soft month -- January is historically the worst for auto sales -- was compounded by a reluctance among customers to venture into dealerships.
"Canadians have overbought in the last few years and there's just very little that can get them out of their funk right now," said Dennis DesRosiers, an independent industry analyst. "We're going to have to live with lower vehicle sales."
DesRosiers said that, based on preliminary figures, January appears to be the worst month for auto sales since 1998, with the overall market down by 11.5 percent compared with the previous year.
Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. managed to avoid the weakness felt by the Big 3, notching an overall increase in January. Toyota had combined car and truck sales of 8,857, up 4.6 percent.
"Product, product and product, you'll find, is the secret to all of the successes in the auto sector, and Toyota is just phenomenal with their product programs right now," DesRosiers said.
Tony Wearing, managing director of Toyota Canada, said the automaker was making "important gains" in the truck market, racking up record sales of its full-sized Tundra pickup, thanks in part to the January launch of the double-cab model.
General Motors of Canada, the country's biggest automaker, also posted a gain in January as combined vehicle sales rose 2.4 percent from a year earlier. Car sales climbed a modest 0.4 percent to 13,745, while truck sales rose a solid 4.7 percent to 12,585.
Ford Motor Co. of Canada endured a 33.3 percent slump in total sales last month. Ford said it sold 2,473 cars, down 47.4 percent, while truck sales were off 27.3 percent at 8,010.
DaimlerChrysler Canada saw a 12 percent decline in combined vehicles sales to 12,224 in January as car sales fell 23 percent to 2,746, while truck sales slipped 8.2 percent to 9,478.