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Bob Price: BC auto dealers face a winding road, even without COVID-19.

Mind if we talk about something other than COVID-19? As we self-isolate and practice physical distancing, many British Columbians might be yearning for something as simple as a relaxing drive into the country on a warm day.

With what would have been the 100th anniversary of the Vancouver International Auto Show postponed until further notice, car buffs from throughout the province had their version of spring fever delayed. That said, the industry buzz for the New Car Dealers Association of BC (NCDABC) hasn’t changed.

“There is no question that the entire industry is going through a massive shift,” says NCDABC president and CEO, Blair Qualey, noting that nearly every vehicle maker is currently restructuring and changing production facilities as part of the dramatic shift to electric vehicles.

The latest data from the BC government suggests the province currently has well over 31,000 light-duty EVs. This makes sense; Qualey points out that per-capita electric vehicle sales in BC are higher than California, just 10 years after the first EVs landed in the province in November 2009. Little wonder that BC has well over 1,700 electric-vehicle charging stations throughout the province, with more added every month.

Many long-held criticisms of EVs are disappearing quickly.

“Battery capability of electric vehicles has gone up dramatically and I think you’re seeing that in many brands and models including lower priced vehicles,” says Qualey.

Amid the gizmos, gadgets and horsepower at the Vancouver auto show, Qualey expects the fast growing popularity of electric rides to dominate many discussions, either next year or at this year’s rescheduled event.

“We always find the conversation becomes very different when somebody actually test drives an electric vehicle,” says Qualey.

With government incentives offering up to $8,000 off an electric vehicle purchase, along with more for a home charging station, the future for EVs is predictable. Qualey notes that while electric rides accounted for 10% of all new vehicle sales in BC last year, that figure is expected to double by 2030 and rise to 100% by 2040 when the provincial government has mandated that all new vehicles be electric.

Qualey says the shift to electric also comes with challenges:

“From an industry standpoint, building a vehicle is a complex and sophisticated process involving research and highly expensive production facilities.”

As the new vehicle buying experience transforms with new product lines and inventions, new vehicle dealerships have a wide economic impact. Referring to a recent NCDABC study, Qualey says his sector normally generates over $16 billion in annual economic activity, and is responsible for more than 30,000 direct and indirect jobs across the province. The study also found that jobs generated by dealerships is equivalent to those created by building 10,000 to 11,000 new homes.

Like most retail-based industries, new vehicle sales rise and fall depending on economic conditions. For Blair Qualey, that means it never gets boring:

“It remains an incredibly exciting time despite all the ups and downs.”

Whenever it happens – see you at the auto show.

As always, I welcome your comments and criticism on Twitter @kammornanchor and email bob@theorca.ca.

Bob Price is a veteran B.C. broadcaster who anchored the morning news on CHNL radio in Kamloops for the past 30 years. Bob is also a past Webster Award winner whose previous stops included Vancouver and Calgary. 

SWIM ON:

  • Last week, Bob Price sat down with Jim Pattison to talk the COVID-19 recession – and hopefully, eventual recovery.
  • In August 2019, the Business Council of BC’s Jock Finlayson and Denise Mullen noted the world’s energy demands are on the rise, and Canada can help.
  • Last summer, Maclean Kay toasted Site C – not for the reason you may think, but for a very enlightened solution to the question “where can workers grab a beer?”
SWIM ON