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2021 proved to be another rollercoaster ride for British Columbians as the COVID pandemic continued, and severe fires and flooding impacted various areas of the province over the course of the year. If there is a silver lining – it’s how British Columbians demonstrated their resilience and compassion by supporting friends, neighbours and even complete strangers.

The New Car Dealers Association of BC (NCDA) was honoured to help lead a fundraising effort in support of flood impacted communities along with the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) and Recreational Dealers Association of BC (RVDA). We want to acknowledge the Wheaton Family, and the First Canadian Financial Group for committing to match dealer donations up to the first $500,000. These combined efforts raised close to $1.4 million and with provincial and federal government matching funds, the total amount represents more than $3.5Million – to help those most in need with emergency support services.

A big thank you is in order to road builders, engineers and first responders who worked so hard to restore key highways linking the west coast to the rest of Canada. The efforts of those who have restored the Coquihalla to commercial traffic and a reopening of the Number 3 Highway is remarkable.

For the NCDA and its more than 400 members, 2021 had its share of ups and downs. The pandemic continued to hit the auto sector hard, in large part because of the ongoing semiconductor shortage and supply chain disruptions affecting vehicle and parts inventory.

2021 was once again the year of the electric vehicle. More than 60,000 light duty EVs now travel our provincial highway system, placing BC in a leadership position in North America (over 12% of new vehicle sales are EVs) on a per capita basis.

The Provincial government accelerated its ambitious targets for zero-emission vehicles. As a result, by 2030, 90% of all new light-duty vehicle sales in the province will be required to be ZEVs (with targets of 26% by 2026 and 100% by 2035). To help meet these targets, the province has established a goal of completing BC’s Electric Highway by 2024 and 10,000 public EV charging stations by 2030. BC currently has more than 2,000 public Level 2 charging stations, 200 public fast-charging sites, with over 480 fast-charging stations.

2021 was a year in which the government also committed $94 million to the CleanBC Go Electric Program, which enables new car dealers to continue providing rebates on the purchase of clean energy vehicles. Funding was also provided to support British Columbians who want to buy and install EV chargers at the condo building or place of work through CleanBC’s Go Electric EV Charger Rebate program.

As vehicles become more technologically advanced, it is vital that the sector trains automotive technicians. To that end, the EV Maintenance Training Program is now being offered at three additional BC colleges, supporting the growing demand for EVs and preparing British Columbians for good-paying jobs in the burgeoning clean-energy economy. The NCDA also continues to support students who are pursuing a career in the automotive industry through its annual CarCareerBC grant program and has developed a new collaboration with WorkBC to promote careers at BC’s dealerships.

I had hoped to end this column by writing about my excitement for the return of the Vancouver International Auto Show. However, due to the constraints on the industry and the realities of the continuing pandemic, we recently had to make the disappointing decision to postpone the 2022 Show. We are now turning our focus to a triumphant return of the Vancouver Auto Show in 2023 as well as new initiatives to connect consumers with the new car industry in 2022.

In spite of ongoing challenges, let’s not lose sight of what is truly important – the ongoing connection and support of family and friends, in a safe and responsible manner.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at [email protected]