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The record sales of the past few months have made it all but certain that the annual record of 1.703 million sales set in 2004 will be surpassed this year.

Steven Senne/AP

Vehicle sales rolled on toward an annual record in Canada with another strong performance last month, while U.S. sales jumped to a level not seen since well before the recession.

Canadian dealers handed over the keys to 133,860 new vehicles in November, up 6.5 per cent from the same month a year earlier. That number represents the highest November on record and follows record performances in several months this year.

The annual pace of sales hit 1.8 million in Canada last month, the second straight month above that level, Bank of Nova Scotia economist Carlos Gomes said Tuesday in a note on the sales.

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The record sales of the past few months have made it all but certain that the annual record of 1.703 million sales set in 2004 will be surpassed this year.

Mr. Gomes is forecasting sales of 1.735 million this year.

The mood among U.S. sales executives is equally buoyant after U.S. sales hit an estimated annual pace of 16.8 million. That's the first time they have been that high since February, 2007, before soaring oil prices battered the Detroit Three and the recession that began in the fall of 2008 sent sales for all auto makers plunging.

"The industry continues to grow – slow, steady growth," Kurt McNeil, General Motors Co. vice-president of sales operations told analysts and reporters on a conference call. "We don't see that letting up as we get into December and flow into 2014."

GM North America president Mark Reuss said the sales represent a true recovery, not one driven by incentives.

If there is one cloud on the horizon, it could be inventories, which are creeping up despite the robust pace of sales.

Ford Motor Co. plans to trim first-quarter 2014 production 10 per cent to 770,000 vehicles as its supply of vehicles rose to 89 days, slightly higher than the preferred 60-day to 70-day supply.

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"We remain very committed to matching supply with demand," John Felice, Ford's vice-president of U.S. marketing, said during that auto maker's conference call.

The strong U.S. sales figure caused Barclays Bank to raise its estimate for fourth-quarter U.S. economic growth to 1.8 per cent from 1.7 per cent.

In Canada, Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. led the sales race in November and held on to first place in the yearly rankings. But both Ford and General Motors of Canada Ltd. lost market share with sales increases of 1 per cent, below the overall industry tally.

Chrysler Canada Ltd. stands second with a 13-per-cent November increase that was among the highest of the major auto makers.

But the Japan-based auto makers put in one of their stronger performances of the year.

Honda Canada Inc., Mazda Canada Inc., Nissan Canada Inc. and Subaru Canada Inc. all posted double-digit increases. Toyota Canada Inc. gained market share with a 7.4-per-cent rise.

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Europe-based companies in the luxury segment generally posted better results than a year earlier, while sales and market share fell for both Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. and Kia Canada Inc.

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About the Author
Auto and Steel Industry Reporter

Greg Keenan has covered the automotive and steel industries for The Globe and Mail since 1995. He also writes about broader manufacturing trends. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism. More

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