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Canadian Auto Sales Fall 25% on Declines for GM, Ford, Chrysler

Feb. 3 Canadian auto sales, after hitting their second highest annual level in 2008, fell 25 percent in January as the weakening Canadian dollar pushed up prices.

Sales slid a combined 35 percent for General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, while Toyota Motor Corp.’s slid 2.7 percent, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. Canadians bought 76,850 cars, minivans, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks last month, down from 102,831 a year earlier.

The January decline reflects a rise in auto prices that started in September as the Canadian dollar fell against its U.S. counterpart, said auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Last year, the stronger Canadian currency helped limit the drop in the nation’s auto sales to 1.1 percent, while the U.S. total tumbled 18 percent.

“We’ve finally caught up with the global automotive recession,” DesRosiers said. “Sales are in the toilet.”

Ford sales fell 14 percent. Because that was less than the drop for the industry, the automaker gained market share for the third consecutive month. Ford said it benefited from demand for its Escape SUV.

GM sales plunged 47 percent and Chrysler’s were down 34 percent.

Toyota posted a 0.3 percent increase for its namesake brand, helped by small models such as Corolla car and Matrix wagon. Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand reported a 35 percent drop.

Honda Motor Co. said sales for its main brand fell 39 percent. Nissan Motor Co. reported selling 15 percent fewer vehicles for its namesake division.

Luxury brands other than Lexus also posted declines, including 26 percent for Honda’s Acura, 27 percent for Nissan’s Infiniti and 20 percent for Bayerische Motoren Werke AG.

Analysts and automakers expect Canadian auto sales to fall 10 percent to 20 percent this year, as the recession widens and prices keep rising. More than 80 percent of the cars sold in Canada are imports, making price especially sensitive to currency swings.

“Today’s auto market is tougher than a 10-cent steak,” Chrysler of Canada President Reid Bigland said in a statement. Canada
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