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By Blair Qualey

The provincial government recently released Budget 2024, and while the focus was largely on the issue of affordability facing British Columbians, it does not extend to auto consumers — today or in the future.

Two areas of concern that we believe require action include the New Car Luxury Tax and the cost of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), and how that relates to the mandated targets requiring automakers to meet an escalating annual percentage of new light-duty ZEV sales and leases.

Beginning with the New Car Luxury Tax — introduced in 1997 with the aim of targeting high-end vehicle buyers — which has not been adjusted for inflation for several years. As a result, the tax kicks in at a $55,000 threshold at the same time the average cost of a new vehicle in Canada exceeds $66,000. Where in decades past a $55,000 price tag may have represented a luxury vehicle, clearly that is no longer the case. Many Canadians simply want a decent, reliable vehicle that is affordable in the form of practical vans, SUVs for family activities, or pickup trucks that may be essential for work or just part of the reality of living in a rural or remote community. New Car Dealers have consistently advocated for raising the threshold to reflect the realities of today and eventually eliminating the tax, as it adds an unnecessary layer of financial burden on residents who are increasingly grappling with the high cost of living.

Another area of significant concern is the mandated targets associated with its Zero Emission Vehicle legislation. As ZEVs grow in both consumer demand and industry production levels, the mandated targets require automakers to meet an escalating annual percentage of new light-duty ZEVs sales and leases – reaching 26% of light-duty vehicle sales by 2026, 90% by 2030, and 100% by 2035. While the initial mandated target is within reach, the longer-term implications are of greater concern. Convincing early adopters was one thing, but the broader consumer base remains hesitant, primarily due to price concerns, range anxiety, and charging considerations — especially in remote areas with limited infrastructure and colder weather.

As proud administrators of the CleanBC Go Electric Passenger Vehicle Rebate Program since 2011, we have forged a strong partnership with the province, and one that has played a crucial role in supporting ZEV adoption. However, the future demands ongoing and predictable funding to support initiatives such as rebates, to make ZEVs affordable for the masses. There is also the issue of fast charging infrastructure and ensuring access is developed to meet current and future demand, especially if targeted mandates are to be met. While Budget 2024 committed $30 million to bolster public charging infrastructure, we believe a commitment for significant and ongoing investment is required.

BC’s New Car Dealers are eager to be part of the solution, and to achieve this, we will continue advocating for policies and funding decisions that encourage consumer spending, support job creation, and incentivize consumers to embrace the changing automotive landscape. But we can’t do it alone. Let’s stand united in these efforts and drive positive change together.

In closing, in a matter of days the Vancouver International Auto Show will make its long-awaited return to the Vancouver Convention Center, so don’t forget to mark your calendar for the March 20-24 event. For more information, including ticket details, read more here.

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