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RICHMOND HILL, Ontario — Although the Canadian new-vehicle market closed 2009 with a "very respectable" December, the double-digit sales increase shouldn't necessarily be overly celebrated, according to DesRoisers Automotive Consultants.

During December, 111,186 new vehicles were sold in Canada, a 17.8-percent upswing from the prior-year period's rather soft numbers.

"December sales were very respectable all things considered. Sales were up 17.8 percent, but off of very weak comparables," Dennis DesRosiers, president of the company, pointed out. "They were actually tracking at levels from about five years ago and there still is a very long way to go before we see mid-decade levels of sales."

In other words, he added: "Don't get too excited about December sales being up."

Full-year, Canadian new-vehicle sales were still down 10.7 percent from 2008 with 1.46 million units sold.

That said, several individual provinces closed the year with a bang, as four showed year-over-year increases of at least 20 percent during December, DesRosiers pointed out.

Newfoundland led the way with a 29.1-percent upswing from December 2008, while dealers in Nova Scotia recorded a 26.2-percent improvement in new-vehicle sales.

New-car sales in Prince Edward Island were up 25.3 percent year-over-year and Ontario's new sales jumped 23.1 percent.

Others showing double-digit increases were Quebec (up 19.4 percent), British Columbia (up 18.9 percent) and New Brunswick (18.7 percent).

"On the dark side, Alberta seems to be the only province still in a serious market funk," DesRosiers shared. "Their sales were up 4.2 percent in December, but the total market was up 17.8 percent. Alberta finished the year down 21.0 percent.

"Much of this is rooted in the excess buying through the oil boom years when Albertans poured new vehicles into their driveways and most of those new vehicles were behemoths," he explained further.

DesRosiers added that the consequences for "over buying" are now showing up.

"It takes more than a year to recover from a decade of stupid buying behavior," he added. 

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan's new-vehicle sales improved 7.9 percent and Manitoba saw a 5.3-percent rise in new-vehicle sales.

Breaking down some of the December data by vehicle type, passenger car sales jumped 13.9 percent year-over-year, while light trucks were up 21.3 percent.

The segment with the heaviest increase from December 2008 was compact luxury SUV, which was up 110.1 percent. Also showing significant gains were large pickups (49.8 percent) and intermediate SUVs (up 46.6 percent).

The car segment with the largest increase was compact cars (up 25 percent).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, large luxury SUVs showed the most decline of any segment, with sales down 27 percent to 262 units sold. Large vans (down 25.7 percent) also saw their sales drop significantly, as they fell to 1,444.