Canadian vehicle sales slumped in May during the sharp spike in gasoline prices, an economist at Scotiabank said Thursday.

Vehicle sales declined to an annualized 1.5 million units last month, down from April's 1.64 million units. Falling sales of light trucks led the decline, slumping 12.4 per cent below a year earlier – the largest year-over-year decline in five months.

"The deterioration in Canadian light truck volumes likely reflects increased consumer caution due to the recent run-up in crude oil and gasoline prices," Carlos Gomes, Scotiabank's auto industry specialist, said.

"In particular, sales of large SUVs were hard hit, plunging 28 per cent below a year earlier in May – a sharp reversal from the 7 per cent advance over the previous four months," Gomes said.

"Even purchases of CUVs (crossover utility vehicles) – the fastest-growing segment across North America – declined 13 per cent below a year ago in May alongside record gasoline prices," he added.

Scotiabank noted that if a recent OPEC announcement that it will bump up crude production leads to an easing in the price of oil and gasoline, then vehicle sales in Canada should rebound.

In the United States, vehicle sales continued strongly, rising to an annual rate of 17.8 million last month – the best showing since August 2003. Shrugging off the rise in gasoline prices, SUV sales in the U.S. rose, boosted by automaker incentives and the recovering job market.