2023 was a year in which the new vehicle sector faced a number of successes and challenges, and while we are cautiously optimistic about 2024, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to foresee issues that will require ongoing attention.
We anticipate that greater new car and truck inventory and a wider variety of models for consumers to choose from bode well for overall vehicle sales in 2024. However, analysts remain concerned about inflation, interest rates and consumer confidence.
Our broader concerns are over the longer term – as a result of Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandates at the provincial and federal level.
Last year, the province accelerated mandated targets for ZEVs and in the final weeks of 2023 the federal government followed suit. Key elements for both plans include legislating arbitrary targets and imposing penalties on auto manufacturers – which in all likelihood will see manufacturers restricting the supply of gasoline vehicles to meet percentage targets.
We fear a combination of financial penalties and reduced inventory have the potential to drive up the price for all vehicles, both new and used – just as it did during the pandemic.
The New Car Dealers of BC, like our federal association, support the ongoing adoption of zero emission vehicles. However, we believe a common sense and flexible approach is required so we are not boxed in should market conditions or other circumstances change.
The NCDA has proudly administered The Clean BC Go Electric Vehicle Rebate Program on behalf of the provincial government since its inception in 2011. During that time frame, BC has become a leader in ZEV adoption on a per capita basis in Canada–and among leading jurisdictions in North America.
In B.C., electric vehicles made up nearly 21 per cent of all new light-duty passenger vehicles sold at the three-quarter mark of 2023, the highest percentage for any province or territory in Canada on a per capita basis. So, over the short-term, achieving the initial targets appear well within reach.
It’s the longer-term implications that are of great concern. What appears lost on our political leaders is that early adopters didn’t require a great deal of convincing, whereas the broader consumer population will, for a host of reasons. For widespread adoption to occur, we will need to convert those who may have concerns about the price of a new ZEV, have range anxiety, or have charging considerations – especially if they live in rural or remote areas where charging infrastructure is limited.
To be fair, our provincial government has supported the development of ZEV adoption through rebates and policy and spending decisions to advance charging capacity – but much more work is required to bridge the affordability gap that exists between gasoline powered and comparable electric vehicle models while building a true electric highway for all British Columbians.
By building flexibility into the process, we stand a better chance of collectively meeting the kind of success we all want, and in doing so creating a cleaner, greener future.
Issues aside, 2024 marks the long-awaited return of the re-imaged Vancouver International Auto Show, March 20 to 24 and for auto enthusiasts, that is pure joy. Detailed information about the event and ticket information are available at: VancouverInternationalAutoShow.com which will be updated with new developments over the coming weeks.
Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.