Canadian vehicle sales are perking up after a slow end to 2011, Scotiabank auto analyst Carlos Gomes said in a report Monday.

A slight cooling in December saw auto sales volumes soften to an annualized pace of 1.5 million units in December — well below the full-year 2011 total of 1.59 million.

But early indications are that January sales have picked up the pace, to an annualized rate of 1.605 million units in 2012 — which would be the fifth highest annual total on record if it came to pass for 2012 as a whole.

The resource-rich provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan will lead the way, the bank says. Vehicle sales in Alberta posted a double-digit increase last year, climbing to 218,000 units — the fourth highest on record.

"We expect volumes to advance a further three per cent to 224,000 units in 2012," Gomes wrote.

A booming oil and gas sector has driven unemployment under five per cent in the province, even as Alberta's population has grown by 1.6 per cent in the past year. That's driving car sales, Gomes said.

Similarly, an economic boom helped Saskatchewan sales move seven per cent higher last year.

"We expect Saskatchewan to be the only province to post record car and light truck sales in 2012, with purchases climbing to 51,000 units, up from 50,000 last year and an average of 43,000 per annum over the past decade," Gomes wrote.

No other region in the country saw sales increase by more than two per cent last year, and several — including Manitoba, Quebec and Atlantic Canada —saw declines.