Sales of cars and light trucks rose 2.4 per cent last month in Canada despite severe winter weather that knocked back auto sales in the U.S.

Chrysler Canada said its sales jumped 10 per cent to 18,522, while the Japanese automakers also enjoyed big gains. Canadians bought a total of 105,693 new vehicles last month, considered a strong sign of consumer confidence.

Ford Canada reported a dip in sales, to 16,234 vehicles in February, down slightly from 16,301 last year. However, Ford truck sales in Canada rose to 13,094 from 12,559, including an eight per cent increase in its redesigned F-Series pickup trucks.

"This year, we have the most aggressive product launch schedule in our history, with 23 vehicle launches globally, 16 of which will be in North America," Ford Canada president and chief executive Dianne Craig said.

"After the Canadian unveilings of the all-new 2015 Mustang (sports car) and F-150 (pickup truck), as well as announcing that the next generation Edge (compact car) will be built right here in Oakville, (Ont.), we are thrilled that the excitement surrounding our brand is resonating with our customers."

Toyota, Honda see improvements

Toyota Canada Inc. said sales of its three major brands totalled 10,942 vehicles in February, up slightly from 10,775 a year ago. Of that total, Toyota cars accounted for 9,763 sales, Lexus sales grew to 980 while Scion sales fell to 199.

"Toyota has made a number of enhancements to the SUV and truck lineups over the past year and we are very pleased with the strong consumer response that continued in February," said Larry Hutchinson, vice-president, sales, for Toyota Canada.

Meanwhile, Nissan said it boosted car and truck sales by  20.7 per cent from a year ago at 6,804 compared with 5,635 in February 2012.

Honda Canada said its overall sales were up 12.4 per cent to 8,796 from 7,823 a year ago.

While Canadians continued to turn out at the dealership, U.S. car sales for General Motors and Ford were hit hard by frigid temperatures in February.

Weather chills U.S. sales

Industry analysts say a string of snowstorms and freezing weather have stalled U.S. car sales, which are expected to come in at just one per cent better than last year.

Chrysler and Nissan reported double-digit gains in U.S. sales, after discounting some key models, including Chrysler's Ram pickup and Nissan's Rogue crossover SUV. 

U.S. February sales, including both cars and trucks:

  • GM: 222,000, down one per cent.
  • Toyota: 166,000, down 4.3 per cent.
  • Ford:  184,000, down 6.1 per cent.
  • Nissan: 115,000, up 16 per cent.
  • Chrysler: 155,000, up 11 per cent.
  • Volkswagen: 27,000, down 13.8 pr cent.

U.S. auto sales raced ahead by eight per cent last year, as Americans returned to work and needed a vehicle to get there.

However, inventory by the big three automakers is on the rise and there is pressure to offer discounts after two months of freezing weather. 

Larry Dominique, executive vice-president of TrueCar, said automaker spending on discounts is growing faster than average sales prices, but he predicted that the bargains will wane as the weather gets warmer and customers return to dealers.

With files from the Associated Press