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January 3, 2019

By Blair Qualey
Published by Postmedia, Jan 4, 2019

2018 was a year punctuated by many changes, high points and challenges – and there is no reason to believe 2019 will be any different. The year began with the results of a study commissioned by the New Car Dealers Association (NCDA) showing the industry generates over $16 billion in retail sales each year and has become the second largest retail category in BC, second only to food and beverage sales – a staggering 19% of total retail sales in BC. It also revealed that new car dealerships provide almost 30,000 family supporting jobs for British Columbians in the 55 communities across the province in which they do business

The annual Vancouver International Auto Show was one of the highlights of the year. In spite of a shortened schedule, the 2018 event achieved the strongest attendance in its 98-year history as a five-day show. Organizers are hard at work to ensure the 2019 event, a six-day event taking place March 19 through 24, will capture the attention of car enthusiasts in the same manner. Check out the new website for show updates and ticket information here.

The past year has seen a great deal of focus on electric vehicles (EVs) and high efficiency, lower emission gas engines. Sales of EVs, as an example, totaled 3,500 in 2017, and by the third quarter mark to 2018, more than 6,300 EV sale transactions had occurred – and in fact, during the third quarter of 2018, the sale of electric vehicles represented 15.4 per cent of all new car sales in the province.

New car dealers play an important role in transitioning consumers towards clean energy vehicles and believe the best way to continue to accomplish the goal is through a carrots, not sticks, approach. To that end, a decision by the Province to increase funding for the CEVforBC Program by $20 million was welcome news. However, we remain concerned about Victoria’s plan to bring in a legislated Zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate this Spring, especially as unnecessary regulations can impact the affordability and availability of all cars and trucks.

Such a mandate does not take into account the issue of affordability for BC families; EVs may not be a realistic option in some areas of the province because of weather and geography; a more comprehensive network of charging stations is required, particularly in the Interior and the North, and; there is no recognition that newer model gasoline vehicles can also play an important role in emissions reductions as manufacturers unveil new internal combustion models that are more fuel efficient with each passing year.

We are interested in the extent to which a public consultation process may occur prior to the introduction of legislation to ensure that the views of all regions of the province are represented in what is a very important discussion.

Over the coming year, we fully expect more onus to be placed on recruiting more young men and women into our industry. As baby-boomers start to the leave the workforce, it’s estimated the BC auto sector will need at least 20,000 new hires over the next ten years to fill job openings.

The Canadian Auto Dealer Association, seeks to draw more qualified and diverse people to our industry with an interactive Job Board and our Association also wants young people to know about pathways available to help them to pursue these opportunities. CarCareerBC Education Grants are available to eligible students who wish to pursue a course of post-secondary education or training that leads to a career in the automotive industry. Information about the process is highlighted here.

As we move into a new calendar year I would like to extend my appreciation to those who read this column on a regular basis and take the time to comment – and to all, I wish you and yours the best in 2019.

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

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