Manufacturing sales rose to their highest level on record in January as shipments of motor vehicles, food, and car parts surged. 

Statistics Canada reported Monday that Canadian factories sold $53.1 billion worth of goods in January. That's an increase of 2.3 per cent from the previous month's level.

Vehicle sales increased 9.6 per cent in January to $6.6 billion, the highest level since November 2000. The increase was due to two things, Statistics Canada said: increased sales of higher-end expensive cars and the plunging value of the loonie.

"Most motor vehicles made in Canada are exported to the United States and prices are related to the value of the Canadian dollar," the data agency wrote.

But not all the increase can be explained by the weaker dollar making things appear to be more expensive. Canadian factories simply sold more products. "The volume of goods sold is returning to their pre-recession highs," TD Bank economist Warren Kirkland said.

Sales of car parts also increased, by four per cent to $2.7 billion. That's the fifth consecutive monthly gain and means Canadian car part sales are at their highest level since 2006.

Statistics Canada said the shift to higher-value vehicle production had made a difference in the dollar value of Canadian auto production, while the low Canadian dollar had helped exports.

Food sales also increased, partly because of the lower Canadian dollar pushing up wholesale costs. Food sales are normally fairly steady regardless of the economy but they rose 4.6 per cent in January to $8.4 billion, the highest value ever recorded.

"We remain optimistic that much of these gains will be sustained in coming months as the past declines in the loonie and robust U.S. domestic demand continues to support Canadian shipments," Kirkland said.

Regionally, eight provinces recorded higher sales in January, led by Ontario and Quebec. The rest saw slight smaller increases. The only provinces to record declines were Alberta and Nova Scotia.

"We expect that most of the upside remains to be seen across Ontario, Quebec and B.C., but other provinces should share in the spoils also," Kirkland said.