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Demand for SUVs and pickup trucks drives July sales for Big 3 automakers

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TORONTO - Purchases of trucks and SUVs helped boost the Canadian auto industry's sales last month, which Ford, Chrysler and General Motors said was their best July on record.

According to DesRosiers Automotive Reports, there were a total of 176,995 cars and light trucks of all makes sold in Canada last month, bringing the total for the year so far to 1.085 million.

A new report from Scotiabank estimates that total sales this year could reach 1.93 million units, which is above its May estimate of 1.89 million units.

Scotiabank senior economist Carlos Gomes said most of the gains are from sales of light trucks, which include cross-over utility vehicles that are smaller than the sports utility vehicles that were popular a decade ago.

"These vehicles are much more fuel efficient and they are much more practical than a small car for example. It is the best of both worlds for the consumer," Gomes said.

Gomes said the Big Three's sales volume has also been helped by reining in price increases and offering pricing promotions more frequently.

Ford of Canada said Friday that its overall July sales were up 15 per cent to 28,923, compared with 25,188 a year ago, helped by a 26.2 per cent increase in truck sales.

Overall sales of Ford trucks totalled 23,205 last month compared with 18,392 in July 2013. However, Ford's cars didn't fare as well as their sales slumped by 15.9 per cent, falling to 5,718 from 6,796 in July 2013.

Chrysler Canada trailed Ford with a seven per cent gain, with a total of 28,007 cars and trucks sold in July, compared with 26,209 a year ago. Its sales were up 11.8 per cent compared with a year ago, boosted by Jeep sales which gained 58 per cent.

Chrysler's Canadian truck sales totalled 24,700, up from 22,095 last year, while car sales fell 19.6 per cent to 3,307 from 4,114 in July 2013.

Truck sales helped General Motors Canada post a 24.2 per cent gain in sales for the month for a total of 19,566, up from 15,756 a year ago.

GM truck sales were up 28.6 per cent at 13,666 for July, compared with 10,625 in the same month last year. Car sales were up 15 per cent at 5,900 compared with 5,131 a year ago.

Last month's sales for Japanese automaker Nissan were strong, with truck sales growing by 51.9 per cent to 4,897 units Versus 3,223 trucks in July 2013. Overall, Nissan and its Infiniti luxury division sold 11,434 vehicles up from 8,176 vehicles in July 2013.

Truck sales picked up for Toyota and its Lexus brand too, rising 6.8 per cent from a year ago to 8,785 trucks. However, the Japanese automaker reported overall sales growth of just 1.7 per cent as car sales slipped 2.7 per cent. In total, Toyota, Lexus and Scion combined to sell 18,039 vehicles, up from 17,734 a year ago

Honda-branded sales totalled 14,574 vehicles, up 8.3 per cent from 13,454 a year ago, but sales of Honda's Acura luxury brand fell 18.6 per cent to 1,373 from 1,687.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly stated Ford's truck and car sales for July and a year ago

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