MANITOBA auto dealers roared off the starting line in January, posting a 10.4 per cent increase in sales of new cars and trucks during what is often one of the slowest months of the year for vehicle sales.
Seasonally unadjusted figures released Thursday by Statistics Canada show 3,204 new cars and trucks were driven off dealership lots in January. That compared to 2,902 in the first month of 2012.
The healthy gain here was in stark contrast to what happened at the national level, where new-vehicle sales fell 2.6 per cent to 97,872 units from 100,448 a year earlier.
The numbers show Manitoba drivers were scooping up both passenger cars and trucks in January.
Sales of new trucks, which includes trucks, buses, vans, minivans, sport-utility and crossover vehicles, jumped 11.5 per cent to 2,256 units from 2,023 a year earlier. And car sales climbed by 7.9 per cent to 948 units from 879.
Manitoba Motor Dealers Association president Neil Metcalfe said a number of factors are helping to fuel the demand for new vehicles. They include strong consumer confidence, attractive buyer-incentive programs and a tight supply of quality used vehicles.
Metcalfe, whose family owns a Ford dealership in Treherne (Metcalfe's Garage), said record-high commodity prices and good soil-moisture levels have farmers feeling upbeat these days. And that gives them the financial means and the confidence to invest in a new vehicle.
Some auto manufacturers are also helping to lure buyers into the showrooms with incentives such as zero per cent interest on loans and cash allowances of up to $12,000 on some models, he said.
And some dealers have a limited supply of quality used vehicles on their lots, he added, "so that makes new (vehicles) look attractive."
Metcalfe also noted many of the vehicles being produced today are a lot more technologically advanced and offer better fuel mileage than ever before, and that also appeals to cost-conscious consumers.
The strong start to 2013 is a continuation of a trend that saw new-vehicle sales surpass the 50,000-unit threshold for the first time in 2012. A total of 52,236 new vehicles were purchased during the year, which was a 7.6 per cent improvement from the previous year.
Metcalfe said 2012 was a good year for his dealership, as well, and he's hoping for a repeat performance in 2013. And he said he's not alone.
"Definitely, optimism is good amongst the (Manitoba) dealers."