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RICHMOND HILL, Ontario — Canada's new-vehicle sales were up more than 6 percent year-over-year in January and it appears that trends from 2009 have continued this year, as the market is gravitating toward trucks and larger vehicles, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

Specifically, new-vehicle sales totaled 81,581 units in January, up 6.2 percent from the 76,850 vehicles sold a year ago.

Light-truck sales were up 11.6 percent at 45,885 vehicles sold, while passenger car sales were relatively static (down 0.1 percent) with 35,696 units moved.

Dennis DesRosiers, president of the company, said when listing some of his observations for the month, that "the market is swinging back to light trucks in a very big way."

"This was developing all last year, as well, so January is a continuation of this trend," he added.

Next, he noted that there has also been a shift toward larger units, another continuing trend seen during most of 2009. For example, DesRosiers points out that there was a 1.4-percent decline in entry-level vehicle sales, but, by comparison, the overall market climbed 6.2 percent and there was a 23.9-percent sales upswing in large/luxury/sports segments.

"My theory is that most vehicle purchases in Canada (90-plus percent) are purely needs driven and many of these consumers have been out of the market," DesRosiers noted. "Pickup truck buyers (are) the best example.

"But when they come back to the market because of their 'needs,' they are not about to compromise and buy less vehicle than their needs dictate," he added. "So these segments come back strong when their consumer base re-engages."

In fact, small pickup sales jumped 5.2 percent while large pickup sales climbed 24.5 percent.

Continuing on, the only segments that showed declines were subcompact cars (down 6.2 percent), compact cars (down 7.8 percent), small vans (down 29.5 percent), and luxury sport (down 9.7), though DesRosiers acknowledged the latter segment is a "tiny part of the market," with only 139 units sold in January.

"Maybe with all this talk of a highly regulated market the consumer is just heading out and buying a larger vehicle while they can with the thinking that if government regulators get their way they will not be able to buy the size of vehicle they desire sometime in the future," DesRosiers commented. "I suspect this is not the case since it is way too early for this type of consumer behavior, but it is an issue worth tracking."

As far as the top 10 selling vehicles, on the light-truck side, eight of the 10 best sellers showed year-over-year gains, all of which were at least double digits (the Chevrolet Equinox saw its sales climb 126.6 percent to 1,253 units sold).

With sales of 4,255 vehicles, the Ford F-Series was the top-selling truck (and the best overall seller in Canada) and its sales climbed 16.8 percent from January 2009.

"This is great news for the D-3," DesRosiers noted. "They have better gross profits in their trucks than in their cars so this kind of growth is very good for their bottom lines."

The only trucks on the top 10 list that showed declines were the Ford Escape (off 13 percent) and the Honda CR-V (off 5.3 percent).

"Interestingly both are entry-level vehicles," he pointed out.

Oddly enough, on the passenger car side, the Mazda3 edged out the Honda Civic as Canada's top-selling car, a rare occurrence, DesRosiers noted. There were 2,938 Mazda3 vehicles sold (up 11.2 percent year-over-year), compared to 2,334 Civics (down 4 percent).

"There may have been a month or two in the last few years where the Civic was not the best-selling car, but that's it … a month or two," he explained. 

The following are the lists of top 10 selling passenger cars and light trucks, respectively, in Canada during January, with sales and year-over-year movement included: 

Passenger Cars

1. Mazda3: 2,938 units (up 11.2 percent)

2. Honda Civic: 2,334 units (down 4 percent)

3. Toyota Corolla: 1,630 units (down 37.6 percent)

4. Hyundai Elantra: 1,313 units (up 28 percent)

5. Chevrolet Impala: 1,251 units (up 260.5 percent)

6. Hyundai Accent: 1,191 units (down 18.7 percent)

7. Nissan Altima: 1,154 units (up 21.2 percent)

8. Toyota Yaris: 1,055 units (down 13.5 percent)

9. Ford Focus: 1,038 units (down 5.8 percent)

10. Volkswagen Golf: 1,006 units (up 112.7 percent)

Light Trucks

1. Ford F-Series: 4,255 units (up 16.8 percent)

2. Dodge Caravan: 3,174 units (up 13.8 percent)

3. Dodge Ram: 2,986 units (up 75 percent)

4. GMC Sierra: 2,636 units (up 30.9 percent)

5. Chevrolet Silverado: 2,366 units (up 23 percent)

6. Ford Escape: 1,711 units (down 13 percent)

7. Hyundai Sante Fe: 1,694 units (up 48.3 percent)

8. Dodge Journey: 1,337 units (up 71.2 percent)

9. Chevrolet Equinox: 1,253 units (up 126.6 percent)

10. Honda CR-V: 1,198 units (down 5.3 percent)