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BMO Economics Predicts North American Auto Industry to Finish Strong by End of 2013

- Canada and U.S. auto industry on track for solid growth

TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 02/11/13 -- The Canadian and U.S. auto industries are poised for solid growth this year - finishing strong with a predicted increase of 7 per cent to 17.5 million units sold - according to a new report by BMO Economics. With a notable pick-up in consumer spending, manufacturing sales are expected to accelerate.

The industry is coming off some momentum that was building last year. Canadian auto sales saw an increase of 5.5 per cent in 2012 compared to 2011. November sales were up 6.5 per cent in dollar terms over 2011, at a total of C$98.6 billion compared to C$92.6 billion the year prior.

In the U.S., auto sales experienced an increase of 15 per cent from 2011. Year-end sales at U.S. dealerships and auto part stores reached US$891 billion in 2012 - an increase of 7.7 per cent.

"The solid domestic market positions North America as an attractive location for auto manufacturers to invest in for 2013," said Alex Koustas, Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "The recent growth suggests automakers will continue to expand capacity and increased technological developments in North America - a trend we expect to continue in the coming years."

Investment Fuelling Innovation and Demand

Continued investments in the auto industry - both north and south of the border - are fueling manufacturing innovation and consumer demand. Notable announcements from government and manufacturers include a C$250 million commitment from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a US$600 million investment in a General Motors plant located in Kansas City, Kansas.

Mr. Koustas noted that numerous technological innovations have been made over the past four years, most notably related to fuel economy. Thirty-seven per cent of vehicles achieved a fuel efficiency rating of 25 miles per gallon, more than doubling since 2008.

"Every segment, from compact to full-sized pickups, has seen improved fuel economy as manufacturers vie to meet new U.S. efficiency standards scheduled for 2016," noted Mr. Koustas.

Compact and midsize vehicles are now adopting amenities which in the past were reserved for their upper-market counterparts. This luxury segment, however, has been the fastest-growing and most profitable area for manufacturers over the past four years.

Affordability in the New Vehicle Sector

The National Automobile Dealerships Vehicle reports vehicle prices rose modestly in 2012, while new vehicle affordability is enjoying its best stretch in years.

According to BMO Economics:

--  Used car prices rose 12 per cent between 2008 and 2011, compared to 5.7
    per cent over the same span for new cars 
--  Consumers are purchasing new vehicles due to improved car quality; used
    cars are maintaining their value for longer

The Big Three automakers (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler) have caused a stir with new supercar designs, but big changes in their core lineups will drive sales this year. Revamped pickup truck lineups will be a big boost for the profile of these automakers as the housing market heats up. Meantime, Toyota and Honda have redesigned some of their best-selling models to bolster their position in the mid-sized segment against hard charging competition from both Kia and Hyundai.

Robert Sadokierski, Head of Dealership Financing for BMO, expects auto manufacturers will continue to offer more incentives for consumers. "There is good news for prospective buyers as companies roll out redesigned models in the compact, mid-sized and luxury segments. In addition, the loonie's strength should support sales and benefit both dealers and consumers by lowering the costs of vehicles and enhancing purchasing power."

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $525 billion as at October 31, 2012, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

Media Contacts:
Russell Baker, Toronto
(416) 867-3996
[email protected]

Peter Scott, Toronto
(416) 867-3996
[email protected]

Ron Monet, Montreal
(514) 877-1873
[email protected]

Laurie Grant, Vancouver
(604) 665-7596
[email protected]

Twitter: @BMOmedia

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