New-vehicle sales hit a record high in Manitoba in 2012, and may have even have topped the previously unattainable milestone of 50,000 units, a leading auto industry consultant predicted Thursday.
Dennis DesRosiers, of Toronto-based DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, said the previous Manitoba record for the most new vehicles sold in a single year was 47,797, which was set in 2002.
And with December's numbers still to be tallied, Manitoba already had 46,077 units sold, he added.
"So there will be record sales for Manitoba (in 2012). It's whether they'll hit 50,000 or not."
DesRosiers said Manitoba and Saskatchewan both had a shot at reaching the 50,000-unit milestone for the first time heading into the final two months of 2012. Saskatchewan has already made it, with 50,590 units sold as of the end of November. And DesRosiers said he'll know Manitoba's sales in another week or two.
Manitoba Motor Dealer Association officials are also curious to see the final numbers. But they agreed that even if the milestone isn't reached, 2012 was still a banner year.
"They all had a pretty good year," said MMDA president Neil Metcalfe.
John Carey, the association's immediate past-president, said he's been hearing the same thing from most of the dealers he's talked to recently.
"It looks like the whole industry had a very positive year."
DesRosiers said pent-up demand is the reason Manitoba had such a strong year. "Their sales have been relatively weak for some time now, but they're finally seeing a sustainable recovery in Manitoba. And that's propelling them to potentially about 50,000 units."
Carey, who is president of Winnipeg's Focus Hyundai dealership on Nairn Avenue, and Metcalfe, who is president of the Ford dealership in Treherne (Metcalfe's Garage), said a number of other factors also helped.
They include a heathy local economy, a high provincial employment rate, a return to better times for the agriculture sector, low interest rates and aggressive marketing and buyer-incentive packages.
Carey said some manufacturers offered cash-back incentives of up to $10,000 for some models. Other enticements include low-interest or interest-free loans, no payments for the first 90 days and no-charge extras for things such as remote starters.
He and Metcalfe said an ever-growing selection of more fuel-efficient and better-equipped vehicles is also luring buyers into showrooms.
"We're seeing technologies we've never seen before," Metcalfe said. "Lots of hands-free integration with cellphones and electronic devices, and things like automatic parking... "
Carey said some of the new compact cars are so fuel-efficient that some rural commuters with older, gas-guzzling models are trading them in and saving enough on their fuel bills to cover their monthly payments.
While sales have been strong right across the board, Carey said "the compact car is definitely the king. It's definitely the largest segment within the Canadian market."
Small sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks continue to sell very well, he added.
He and Metcalfe both said they're not worried that with sales being so strong in 2012, there might be a drop in sales in 2013.
"I think we'll still see a positive year," Metcalfe said.
Canadian 2012 stats
Car sales totalled 759,795 and light truck sales were 915,880 in 2012 -- up from 693,735 cars and 891,784 light trucks in 2011.
Results fell short of the 1.7 million vehicles sold in 2002.
The Big Three U.S. automakers accounted for 44 per cent of the 2012 sales, down from 47 per cent in 2011.
Ford Motor Co. of Canada capped a third consecutive year as the best-selling automaker in the country. Ford sold 276,068 vehicles, up from 275,978 in 2011.
Chrysler Canada sales for 2012 rose six per cent to 243,845 vehicles from 230,992 in 2011.
General Motors Canada rounded out the big U.S. automakers with sales for the year totalling 226,825, down from 242,830 in 2011.
Toyota Canada Inc. led the Japanese automakers in Canada as it reported sales, including its Lexus and Scion brands, of 192,058, up 18.4 per cent from 162,260 in 2011.
Combined Honda and Acura sales totalled 148,712 vehicles, up 21 per cent from 2011.
Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. reported sales up 5.4 per cent for the year to 136,283, a new record for Hyundai.
Combined Nissan and Infiniti sales totalled 82,194, down 2.9 per cent from 2011.
Kia Canada Inc. sold 77,800, a 19.5 per cent increase over 2011 sales.
-- source: DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc.