Stronger sales of cars and pickup trucks helped Ford become the best-selling automaker in Canada in March, while Chrysler retained the sales crown for the year-to-date.

New data compiled and released by the car companies Tuesday shows Ford sold 25,092 vehicles in Canada last month. That's up from 24,690 the same month a year ago.

Chrysler Canada saw its sales increase by more in percentage terms, up 6.5 per cent from 22,703 to 24,173 vehicles. But that wasn't quite enough to outsell Ford during the month.

So far this year, Chrysler has sold 58,018 vehicles in Canada, good enough for first overall and a gain of four per cent from last year's level.

Both companies singled out pickup trucks for their better numbers.

"We experienced our best Ram truck sales in our history this month," Chrysler Canada's COO Dave Buckingham said in a statement.

GM Canada slides

The third largest North American auto company, General Motors, saw its Canadian sales continue to decline, down more than 10 per cent from the same month a year earlier to 20,218 from 22,684.

Based on those numbers, Chrysler has a year-to-date new car market share of 16.3 per cent in Canada. Ford claims second place with 16.2 per cent, while GM is in third at 13.5 per cent.

Japanese automaker Toyota competes with GM for the title of world's biggest car seller, but in Canada, Toyota is firmly entrenched in fourth place. Toyota sold 15,065 vehicles in March, down six per cent from last March. So far this year, Toyota has 9.5 per cent of the Canadian car market, down from 10.3 per cent last year.

Mazda Canada also released March sales data on Tuesday. The company saw sales grow by five per cent year-over-year to 8,153 vehicles.

Honda's March sales were just 0.6 per cent lower than last year's.

Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia both followed up impressive 2012 numbers with underwhelming starts to 2013, as the two companies saw their Canadian sales decline in March by 4.7 and 11.3 per cent, respectively. Year-to-date, their sales are also down.

Luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Infiniti, BMW, Jaguar and Land Rover all enjoyed double-digit sales increases in March. "Luxury markets outperformed their mainstream counterparts by a considerable margin in March," said automotive analyst Dennis DesRosiers in a statement. "Luxury remains a small and highly regionalized but highly profitable and influential part of the market."

Total vehicle sales in March came to 156,680. That was down by just over 1,000 from last year's number. "March 2012 was the best March sales total on record, so the 2013 performance is certainly encouraging," DesRosiers said.  

U.S. sales at 6-year high 

In the U.S., General Motors' sales rose six per cent in March as Americans continued to gain confidence and buy more cars and trucks. GM says it sold almost 246,000 vehicles last month.

Other automakers also reported sales increases for the month. Chrysler was up five per cent, while Ford rose six per cent.

Industry analysts estimate that total March sales reached nearly 1.5 million cars and trucks, a number not seen since May 2007. Total U.S. sales are expected to be up three to five per cent over March of 2012.

With files from The Associated Press