August was a hot month for Canadian vehicles sales, with several major automakers reporting year-over-year increases as incentives helped draw customers into showrooms.

Ford, Honda, General Motors, Chrysler and Hyundai all reported an improvement in sales last month. Although numbers a year ago were still depressed amid economic uncertainty and major restructurings at GM and Chrysler, the improvement indicates a spate of incentives are having their intended effect.

Canadian sales gains stood in stark contrast with those in the U.S., where GM, Ford and Toyota all saw sales slip. Smaller automakers like Subaru suffered, too, as did companies that appeal to the budget minded, such as Kia and Hyundai.

Ford Canada said yesterday it sold 24,034 units in August, up just more than eight per cent compared with the same month a year ago and the company’s best performance for the month in 20 years.

“Consumers are beginning to recognize Ford, not only as a great truck company but as a great car company, too,” said David Mondragon, president and CEO of Ford Canada. Ford said it will extend its employee pricing incentives until the end of the month.

Meanwhile, GM Canada said its overall sales were up two per cent to 23,542, while sales of the four core brands it didn’t eliminate during its restructuring — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac — were up 18 per cent. Year to date, sales of GM core brands are up 34 per cent compared to a dismal 2009, when the company was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. and accept billions of dollars in aid from the American, Canadian and Ontario governments.

“Our continued momentum demonstrates our four-brand strategy is squarely hitting the mark with customers,” said Marc Comeau, GM Canada’s vice-president of sales, service and marketing.

GM has been offering employee pricing to draw customers into its dealerships and said it will use other incentives through September to continue to boost sales.

Chrysler, which also restructured under bankruptcy protection, said its August sales were up 12 per cent compared to a year ago to 16,144. This is four per cent higher than the pre-downturn levels of August 2008.

Chrysler is also using incentives to draw customers into its stores, including a new low-interest financing program that allows buyers to return a vehicle at the end of a predetermined time period.