Ford projects better sales in Canada in 2012

(Wikimedia Common/Whpq/HO)

(Wikimedia Common/Whpq/HO)

Michzel Wood, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:41 PM ET

CALGARY - The country’s leading auto maker has upped the forecast for projected sales in Canada after a surprising break-out start for an industry still clawing its way back from a recessionary slump.

Dianne Craig, president of Ford Motor Company of Canada, said while auto manufacturers aren’t anticipating a return to those heady days of 2002, when 1.73 million new units sold in Canada, the market is proving to have healed better than expected.

“What we’ve seen in January and February is certainly suggesting it be a stronger pace, so we’ve taken our forecast up for the year to 1.67 million, which is 40,000 higher than we initially projected,” said Craig, who was in Calgary as the Calgary International Auto and Truck Show got underway.

The crawl back to health from a brutal recession was highlighted in a recent report by BMO Financial Group, which found new and used car and truck sales in January were up 15% in Canada compared to the same month one year ago.

American sales had jumped 11% in that same time.

Auto makers anticipated only modest sales growth for 2011 and 2012, based on consumer confidence litmus tests, GDP growth, unemployment and interest rates.

“Even when we looked at those, it wouldn’t have suggested we’d see the lift in January and February,” said Craig.

“March will be a really telling month for the industry, just to see how much of January and February was driven by pent up demand.

“If this is sustainable for the balance of the year, it will be very good for the industry.”