Purchases of new and resale cars and trucks by Canadian households are on a near-record pace, according to the latest global auto report by Scotia Economics.

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Scotia Economics says purchases of new and resale cars and trucks by Canadian households could reach a record 4.4 million in 2010. ((Paul Sancya/Associated Press))

The bank said Wednesday it expects retail vehicle sales in Canada this year to climb to the second-highest annual level on record, just behind the peak in the late 2000s.

At the same time, global vehicle sales will fall year over year in August.

And, unlike Canadian consumers, Americans are replacing their aging vehicles with less-expensive pre-owned cars and light trucks instead of new models, Scotiabank said. However, fleet sales by rental car agencies, corporations and government restocking their fleets are boosting sales in that segment of the U.S. market by more than 30 per cent.

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The report said the rebound in Canadian household new vehicle purchases will drive overall 2010 car and light truck sales to a record 4.4 million units — 2.9 million used vehicles and 1.57 million new models.

That's up from a previous peak of 4.3 million in 2007.

Scotiabank economist Carlos Gomes said record vehicle transactions and the outperformance by new models reflect Canada's strong job market, as well as enhanced new vehicle incentives by the major auto companies.

In the last several months, Canadian consumers have also been buying SUVs, crossovers and larger cars, in part because of sizable incentives on those vehicles.

"With Canadians in need of replacing many of the record 8.6 million vehicles on Canadian roads that are at least nine years old, overall vehicle sales — new and used — are set to climb to new heights in 2011," added Gomes.

"In fact, despite near-record new vehicle purchases by Canadian households, used car prices … have advanced by 5.5 per cent so far this year, indicating ongoing strong demand for pre-owned models."