Toyota Canada February sales increase by 25 per cent despite recalls

TORONTO - Toyota Canada's February sales were up more than 25 per cent compared with a year ago, suggesting a massive worldwide recall did not significantly affect the brand's popularity in this country.

TORONTO - Toyota Canada's February sales were up more than 25 per cent compared with a year ago, suggesting a massive worldwide recall did not significantly affect the brand's popularity in this country.

The company said Tuesday it sold 12,693 vehicles last month, including 902 Lexus luxury vehicles. Lexus sales were up 26.2 per cent to their best February ever, while sales of Toyota-brand vehicles were up 25.2 per cent.

By comparison, Toyota's U.S. sales fell nine per cent last month.

Several models that were involved in a recall of 270,000 vehicles in Canada due to sticky accelerator pedals - including the Corolla, Matrix and RAV4 - reported their highest-ever February sales. The Prius, which was involved in a separate voluntary recall over its braking system, also set a record for February sales.

"We thank our customers for continued confidence in Toyota vehicles - vehicles that are reliable, safe and fuel-efficient," said Toyota Canada president Yoichi Tomihara.

The Japanese automaker has recalled 8.5 million vehicles worldwide in recent months to deal with safety problems involving gas pedals, floor mats and brakes, some of which have been linked to fatal accidents.

The recalls are the subject of ongoing congressional hearings in the U.S., and it appears company officials will be also summoned to testify at a parliamentary committee about recent safety issues.

Overall Canadian vehicle sales increased 24.9 per cent in February to 100,243 vehicles, according to date compiled by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. This in part reflects the weakness of the market a year earlier during the depths of the recession.

Industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers said it is "hard to explain" Toyota's bright Canadian sales.

"The consumer appears to be giving them the benefit of the doubt, at least for now," DesRosiers wrote in a commentary.

"I also suspect there is some backlash in Canada to the treatment Toyota is getting by the politicians in the U.S.... The Americans have come across as 'piling on' and this is so un-Canadian."

Ford Canada (NYSE:F) beat out rival General Motors to sell the most vehicles in Canada last month, capturing 16.2 per cent of the market. The company's sales jumped by 51.1 per cent year over year to 17,910. This marks Ford's ninth consecutive month of sales improvements and 16th consecutive month of market-share gains, the company said.

It was the third time since June that Ford has beat out GM to claim the No. 1 spot. Before that, Ford hadn't led Canadian sales for 50 years.

GM claimed second place in terms of market share, selling 13,846 vehicles, up 21.7 per cent from a year earlier.

"We are very pleased with this continued strong sales performance - the third consecutive month we've grown retail sales for our core brands," said Marc Comeau, GM Canada's vice-president of sales, service and marketing.

In third place was Chrysler, which saw sales increase by 17.2 per cent to 13,970 vehicles. Excluding fleet sales, the automaker said its retail sales were up 23 per cent.

Toyota captured 11 per cent of the Canadian market, while rival Honda sold 8.5 per cent of the vehicles bought in Canada. Honda's sales were up 27 per cent to 8,917 vehicles in February. Sales of Honda-brand vehicles were up 33 per cent while sales of Acura luxury vehicles were down 13 per cent.

Hyundai edged closer to a top-five spot, capturing eight per cent of the Canadian market with sales up 8,502, up 23 per cent.

Among other automakers, Nissan sold 4,006 vehicles in February, down 6.6 per cent, while its Infiniti luxury brand sold 440 vehicles, up 2.6 per cent.

Mercedes-Benz saw Canadian sales of 1,892, up 33.3 per cent, while BMW's sales gained 19.3 per cent to 1,420.

Volkswagen sold 2,821 vehicles in February, up an astounding 63.9 per cent, while Audi's sales rose 38.1 per cent to 866.

Kia sold 3,001 vehicles, up 35.1 per cent, while Mazda sales gained 5.6 per cent to 4,929, Mitsubishi sales were up 7.2 per cent to 1,558 and Subaru sold 1,724 vehicles, up 36.5 per cent. Volvo sales were up 13.2 per cent to 411 units.

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