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driving it home

Jeremy Cato believes the Honda Civic will end 2012 as the best-selling passenger car for the 15th year in a row. Do you agree? Tell us in the comments.

Take a look at some of the gaudy sales increases we've seen for certain models in the early days of 2012: Honda Civic up 332.5 per cent, Honda CR-V up 126.8 per cent, Toyota Camry up 168.5 per cent and Hyundai Accent up 52.9 per cent, to name three.

Honda had supply problems with the Civic and CR-V last year. Those issues are history. On top of that, Honda has an all-new CR-V in dealerships now. Taken together, these elements explain the whopping gains.

As for Toyota, the Camry a year ago was an aging family sedan that has since been seriously updated. Again, as with the CR-V, Toyota has no more supply problems with the Camry. Accent? Last year, at this time, Hyundai was putting all its marketing muscle behind the Elantra compact.

As this year unfolds, it will be entertaining to see how the top 10 lists of best-selling passenger cars and light trucks pan out. Civic and CR-V sales are not likely to maintain the current pace, and the same holds true for the Camry and Accent.

As for the overall picture, auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. suggests it is nearly impossible to draw trenchant conclusions from the sales numbers, given that the car companies as a group engaged in "so much 'gaming' of the numbers" at year end and into January.

"And since January is the lowest sales month in the year, any of these abnormalities can make the numbers look quite wonky. And believe me, there was a lot of 'gaming' of the numbers in January," he said in a note to clients.

Not surprisingly, the Civic remains the No. 1 passenger car in Canada; the Ford F-Series is most popular among light trucks. However, "if Hyundai could ever get their hands on enough Elantra product, they could give Honda a run for the title of best-selling passenger car, but this vehicle is hot everywhere it is sold and it is not certain that Canada could ever get enough product to fill expected demand," according to DesRosiers.

Early 2012 prediction: The Honda Civic will end 2012 as the best-selling passenger car for the 15th year in a row.

DesRosiers notes than in January, the large/luxury markets were the hottest in Canada: up 35.6 per cent in a market that was up 15.4 per cent. More of the same is coming for the rest of this year. Meanwhile, small, entry-level vehicles performed at the market in January, up 16.1 per cent.

One segment that will witness plenty of action going forward is compact SUVs. The CR-V is new, but into this mix we're going to see a new Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape and RAV4 to name three. Look for the top 10 race among light trucks to include more compact SUVs as the new entries arrive and the established players defend their turf.

In the meantime, here are Canada's top 10 cars and light trucks for January 2012.

Passenger Cars

In pictures: Top 10 best-selling passenger cars for January

1: Honda Civic: 4,939 (2012 figures), 1,142 (2011 figures), up 332.5%

2: Hyundai Elantra 2,399 (2012 figures), 2,643 (2011 figures), down 9.21%

3: Toyota Corolla 2,337(2012 figures), 2,146 (2011 figures), up 8.9%

4: Mazda3 1,912 (2012 figures), 1,689 (2011 figures), up 13.2%

5: Chevrolet Cruze 1,619 (2012 figures), 1,471 (2011 figures), up 2.9 %

6: Volkswagen Jetta 1,513 (2012 figures), 1,471 (2011 figures), up 2.9%

7: Ford Focus 1,374 (2012 figures), 1,278 (2011 figures), up 7.5%

8: Hyundai Accent 1,329 (2012 figures), 869 (2011 figures), up 52.9%

9: Toyota Camry 1,007 (2012 figures), 375 (2011 figures), up 168.5%

10: Nissan Altima 863 (2012 figures), 797 (2011 figures), up 8.3%

Light Trucks

In pictures: Top 10 best-selling light trucks for January

1: Ford F-Series 6,579 (2012 figures), 5,374 (2011 figures), up 22.4%

2: Dodge Ram 4,345 (2012 figures), 3,766 (2011 figures), up 15.4%

3: Dodge Caravan 3,534 (2012 figures), 4,422 (2011 figures), down 20.1%

4: GMC Sierra 2,338 (2012 figures), 2,866 (2011 figures), down 18.4%

5: Ford Escape 2,209 (2012 figures), 2,969 (2011 figures), down 25.6%

6: Chevrolet Silverado 2,079 (2012 figures), 2,518 (2011 figures), down 17.4%

7: Dodge Journey 1,951 (2012 figures), 1,764 (2011 figures), up 10.6%

8: Honda CR-V 1,930 (2012 figures), 851 (2011 figures), up 126.8%

9: Toyota RAV4 1,428 (2012 figures), 1,062 (2011 figures), up 34.5%

10: Hyundai Santa Fe 1,365 (2012 figures), 1,243 (2011 figures), up 9.8%

Source: DesRosiers Automotive Consultants