A rebound in sales in the final month of 2012 helped Manitoba's new-vehicle dealers smash through the 50,000-unit sales threshold for the first time ever.
Statistics Canada figures released Thursday show 52,236 new cars and trucks were sold last year in the province, including 3,840 in December.
December's total was a 1.4 per cent improvement from November and reversed a trend that had seen sales decline in each of the three previous months.
It also pushed 2012 sales past the previously unattainable threshold of 50,000 units. The only other time in the last 22 years local dealers came close to reaching that milestone was in 2002, when 49,309 new vehicles were sold.
Birchwood Honda West was one of the dealerships that benefited from last year's sales surge.
"Two thousand and twelve was a record year for us," general sales manager Dom Trotta said in an interview.
Trotta said both new and used vehicles were flying off the lot, as car owners scrambled to replace older vehicles with newer, more energy-efficient and technologically advanced models.
He said the fuel-sipping Honda Civic car and the CRV sport utility vehicle were once again big sellers for the dealership. And the redesigned Honda Accord sedan, which on Thursday won the coveted 2013 Car of the Year award from Canadian automotive journalists, has also been winning over a lot of fans in the three months since it arrived in the dealership's showroom.
"We've got a three-month waiting list for some models, like the Accord Touring," he added.
The president of the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association was on vacation and could not be reached Thursday for comment. However, in interviews last month, Neil Metcalfe and the association's immediate past president, John Carey, said a variety of factors helped fuel the demand for new vehicles in 2012.
They included low interest rates, a healthy local economy, a high provincial employment rate, a return to better times for the province's agriculture sector and aggressive marketing campaigns and buyer-incentive programs from automobile manufacturers and dealers.
Metcalfe and Carey also cited increased fuel efficiency and technological advancements as big motivators for a growing number of buyers.
"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... "
Trotta said some of the new safety features on the 2013 Honda Accord buyers are liking are built-in sensors that alert the driver when there is a vehicle in the next lane, or when the driver in front of him or her is braking.
The Statistics Canada figures show sales were strong across the board last year in Manitoba. Passenger-car sales were up 9.8 per cent to 17,322 units, while sales of trucks, which includes trucks, vans, SUVs and cross-over vehicles, grew by 6.6 per cent to 34,914.
The 7.6 per cent increase in total sales easily surpassed the national average increase for 2012 of 5.9 per cent -- 1.7 million units versus 1.6 million for 2011.
HERE are the annual, seasonally unadjusted new-vehicle sales totals for Manitoba since the start of the new millenium:
-- source: Statistics Canada