TORONTO - August was a month of extremes for vehicle sales in Canada, with some major automakers posting double-digit losses and others posting double-digit gains.

Data from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants shows overall vehicles sales in Canada were down 7.9 per cent in August to 135,351 compared to 146,978 a year earlier.

Ford Canada had a tentative grip on top market share for two months in a row, but was edged out of that spot by General Motors Canada in August.

GM's Canadian sales declined by 27.5 per cent year over year to 23,018, but the struggling automaker still managed to grab the largest portion of the market at 17.6 per cent.

"Rebuilding our inventory levels in August has improved our sales performance," stated Marc Comeau, GM Canada's vice-president of sales, service and marketing.

"The new and recently launched GM cars and trucks are being very well received and we are positioned to capitalize on the growing market momentum."

Following GM in terms of market share were Ford, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda. South Korean automaker Hyundai came in a close fifth after seeing its sales jump by nearly 40 per cent.

"Once again we see a Big Six rather than a Big Three emerging in the market in Canada with the Detroit one, the government two, the Japanese two and the new kid on the block from Korea," auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers said.

Both GM and Chrysler were given billions of dollars in bailout money from the U.S., Canadian and Ontario governments earlier this year after restructuring under bankruptcy protection.

Ford's sales were up seven per cent to 22,166 units in August - its third consecutive month of gains - and it captured 15.7 per cent of the Canadian auto market.

The automaker known for its F-150 pickup trucks has been focusing its marketing on smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. The shift in focus seems to be paying off, with car sales up 17 per cent year over year.

Ford is the only North American automaker that didn't require government assistance and a trip to bankruptcy court this year and it has benefited from the uncertainty and temporary shutdowns at GM and Chrysler.

Other automakers weren't so lucky. Toyota Canada claimed third but its sales fell 24.2 per cent from the same month last year at 16,707 vehicles. Toyota's Lexus luxury brand sold 1,532 vehicles, up 31.3 per cent from last year.

In fourth was Chrysler, which saw its sales fall 6.8 per cent to 14,393.

Meanwhile, Honda Canada reported sales of 10,574 units, a 21.8 per cent decrease from last year. Honda's Acura brand boosted sales by 26.4 per cent to 1,644.

Hyundai Canada posted a 38.4 per cent improvement in its sales to 10,418, after the automaker announced it would give consumers between $500 and $1,000 in savings, depending on the vehicle, as an incentive to scrap old cars for new Hyundais.

"Here in Canada, August was our eighth straight month of sales increases, and our seventh straight month of broken records. I think these results are helping people take notice of us," stated Hyundai Canada vice-president John Vernile.

Nissan Canada's sales improved by 4.2 per cent to 7,071 while its Infiniti luxury brand sold 604 vehicles, down 13.6 per cent from a year earlier.

Kia Canada reported a 20.6 per cent increase to 4,672 vehicles sold.

Audi's sales soared by 89.6 per cent to 1,058 while Saab sales plunged 79.8 per cent to 36 vehicles sold compared to 178 a year ago.

In the United States, the Cash for Clunkers program boosted sales at Ford, Toyota and Honda in August as consumers snapped up their fuel-efficient offerings.

The program, which ended last week, drew hordes of buyers into quiet showrooms by offering up to US$4,500 toward new, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

The rebates gave automakers and dealers a much-needed lift, spurring 690,114 new sales, many of them during August, at a taxpayer cost of $2.88 billion.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) sold 181,826 cars and light trucks compared with 115,117 in August 2008, when high gas prices and growing economic uncertainty kept people away from showrooms.

Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. also posted gains year-over-year gains in August. Toyota sales rose 6.4 per cent to 225,088, lifted by small cars like the Corolla, the best-selling clunkers vehicle.

Honda sales rose 9.9 per cent to 161,439, also largely on the strength of its fuel-efficient offerings.

Meanwhile, low supplies of fuel-efficient vehicles at Chrysler kept the automaker from benefiting more from the clunkers program. Chrysler sales fell 15 per cent to 93,222 units.