Auto sales, believed to have dropped in 2017, remain strong

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The year 2017 had proved a generally disappointing one for United States auto makers, being the first year since 2009 that vehicle sales had fallen from the previous year.

Detroit-based GM sold 19,801 vehicles in Canada last month, with Chevrolet accounting for more than half of total sales.

General Motors, Toyota and Ford all reported a 1 percent declines in sales previous year compared to 2016. Sales totaled 2.587 million units compared with 2.615 million sold in 2016. Toyota Motor Corp.'s RAV4 was the leading sport utility vehicle for the first time and joined Nissan Motor Co.'s Rogue crossover in outselling all passenger cars in what was a bleak year for sedans. Volkswagen said its sales in the USA rose by 5 percent.

General Motors was the top seller but had a drop of 1.4 percent.

- LUXURY CROWN: Mercedes-Benz's sales fell 1 percent to 337,246, but that was still enough to make it the top-selling luxury brand in the US for the second straight year.

"It's good news in the sense that it highlights that the consumer is coming back to the market with soaring demands for crossovers, but it's also telling us that business investment is also strengthening, which is confirmed by a sharp improvement in pickup truck sales". New auto sales in March are expected to top 1.4 million in the USA, on pace for 14.6 million within the year.

Some automakers did not manage to post annual sales increases, including FCA, Hyundai and smart.

Despite the usual year-end push to get vehicles out the door, most automakers endured tough sledding in December.

Ford's light vehicle deliveries rose 1.3% last month as its F-Series pickup line had its best year since 2005.

Sales at Toyota's Lexus brand fell 13.9 percent.

"We finished 2017 on a high note, reflecting the continued strength of our product portfolio and establishing Toyota as the number one retail brand for the sixth year in a row", said Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager, Toyota division.

Analysts think sales will fall a bit further this year.

"We're likely to see most of the decline in the marketplace occur within the vehicle side of the business, as opposed to the light truck segment", he said. Honda division saw its sales drop last month by 6.3%, but came in with a 0.7% jump for all of 2017.

"Average transaction prices closed the year on a strong note, rising almost 2% in December 2017 to set a record high", said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

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