Auto dealers say Ontario’s payments under the Electric Vehicle Incentive Plan (EVIP) have slowed to a trickle, with an average wait time of six months or more. Some dealers are awaiting amounts of more than $500,000.
Automotive News Canada first reported in September that dealers were growing frustrated at the wait times, but it seems to be getting worse, not better. More dealers have since come forward to tell their stories.
“They owe me in just my BMW store and my General Motors store, about $780,000,” Chris Budd told Automotive News Canada. Budd is the owner of Budds’ Group of companies, which operates nine dealerships in Oakville and Hamilton, Ont. “Just the GM dealers alone in the Greater Toronto Area — not all of Ontario, just the GTA — I believe they owe them $2.3 million and counting.
“It seems like about five months ago they just stopped paying. They gave no notice to dealers that there were any issues. The receivables just started to mount up. There seems to be a massive backlog. You don’t get calls back from anybody.”
Wait times for rebates on EV sales in Ontario initially averaged two to three months, dealers say. Provincial officials say they fell behind as the volume of rebates grew, but have drawn up a plan to improve payment times.
Progressive Conservative Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris raised the issue at Queen’s Park on Nov. 22, calling the program “a Liberal green scheme” and “costly vanity project.”
“We don’t think auto dealers should be on the hook to pay for Liberal subsidies,” he said during question period.
He demanded to know when dealers would see their money.
Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca didn’t answer directly. Instead, he accused the PCs of not supporting green initiatives.
“What we’ve seen is actually a dramatic increase” in EV sales among what he called middle income families, Del Duca said in response.
Meanwhile, dealers have substantial unpaid balances.
Robin Pawlak, controller at Barry Cullen Chevrolet-Cadillac in Guelph, said the dealership has received only three payments from EVIP since the end of August and was owed $644,000 as of early November.
“On October 10th, they paid a March 31st EVIP credit,” she said. “On October 25th, they paid an April 29th [credit]; on November 1st, they paid a May 10th [credit]. But I still have two that were submitted at the beginning of April that have not been paid.
“We’re paying interest on that money.”
DEALERS, PROVINCE MEET
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has pledged to address the concerns of those who continue to wait to receive government rebates on EV sales, a delay that applies both to dealers and to consumers, who have the option to apply for the credit directly. However, the details of a plan have yet to be confirmed.
Consumers in Ontario are entitled to receive rebates of up to $14,000 on EV purchases. Dealers routinely discount the value of these rebates at point of sale and process the applications themselves as a value-added service to their customers.
“We have always applied for the customer,” Budd said. “If the consumer is taking a lease, the credit is critical to capitalize the lease at the proper amount.
“It seems to us we should shield the consumer from the paperwork and administration. We would not be adding value to the purchase if we didn’t claim on their behalf.”
Frank Notte, director of government relations for the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, told Automotive News Canada that he met with government representatives and EV stakeholders in late October to discuss potential resolutions.
“I think from that meeting they got the message loud and clear that this is a huge issue,” Notte said. “[EVIP representatives] have said that they’re going to move over to a new payment system and hopefully get the payments out much sooner.
“They also mentioned that they’re going to start processing them in batches. I don’t know if that means Dealer A who has so many outstanding is going to get it done or, for example, all the ones that were received in a particular month will be done.”
Bob Nichols, senior media liaison officer for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, said that with more resources dedicated to the program, the province is now processing June rebate applications.
“The Electric Vehicle Incentive Program has experienced significant uptake of over 100 per cent, which has impacted application processing and payment timelines,” he said.
“To better serve EVIP applicants, we are dedicating additional staff resources to improve payment timelines and streamline the application process. The Province has been looking into new forms and payment submission platforms for dealers on a go-forward basis. Details will be available once they are finalized.”
Pawlak said she was told that an online application system is coming and has stopped submitting paperwork, at an EVIP representative’s suggestion, until the new system is in place. She currently has eight applications that she has not submitted.
“She said we will be able to submit them online and we’ll get our money within 30 days,” Pawlak said. “They’re supposedly going to have a system in place, hopefully in the first week of November. I haven’t heard anything from them, and this is November.”
30-90 DAY WAIT?
Budd added that he has heard that the updated wait times will be between 30 and 90 days, which he said remain “completely unacceptable.”
“If it was a consumer claiming this, there would be an uproar in the newspapers. It would be untenable,” he said. “They haven’t given us any information. They haven’t communicated to dealers at all that there is a slowdown.”
“They already know the cars that come into the province that are electric cars. They get all the serial numbers from the manufacturers, so one would think all they have to do is match to make sure it’s a car that came into Ontario and the manufacturer legally brought it in and pay the credit.
“I hate to think what [the amount owed] is in all of Ontario. It must be serious, serious money.”
Including Ontario, three jurisdictions in Canada currently offer EV rebate incentives to consumers. In Quebec, dealers receive rebates directly from the province under the Transportation Electrification Action Plan within eight to 10 weeks. In British Columbia, applications are submitted by dealers to the province’s New Car Dealers Association, which processes them and reimburses the amount of the incentive via e-transfer within two to four weeks.