General Motors made plenty of headlines in October and November — all of them splashed across our homepage at. From a $3.2-billion profit in the third-quarter, to offering buyouts to 18,000 salaried employees in North America to it’s somewhat shocking announcement that its Oshawa Assembly Plant will likely close after 2019, there was no shortage of news.
But one of the stories that really caught my attention back in October — and one that was likely quickly forgotten about after news of the cutbacks — was the automaker’s proposed zero-emissions-vehicle policy for the United States and GM Canada’s backing of the idea.
The automaker on Oct. 26 suggested the United States mandate a particular percentage of annual new-vehicle sales be of the zero-emissions variety; it’s a policy similar to one already in place in Quebec. And GM Canada supports the idea — all in the name of harmonization.
“We think it’s in Canada’s interest to stay aligned with one common U.S. federal program because that enables Canada to gain the benefit of technological investments and economies of scale that are 10 times larger than that of Canada alone,” GM Canada spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said in an email.
Supporting a quota approach is in stark contrast to what the Canadian auto industry has been saying in the wake of Quebec’s ZEV policy — which requires automakers to generate credits equal to 3.5 per cent of sales for model year 2018, rising annually — and during the federal government’s pursuit of a national ZEV strategy.
GM’s proposal calls on the United States to establish ZEV requirements — by credits — each year, starting at seven per cent in 2021 and increasing two per cent each year to 15 per cent by 2025, then 25 per cent by 2030.
It’s not clear Ottawa has ruled out a national sales mandate, but associations representing automakers in Canada have long been against it.
“You can’t force supply for which there’s no demand,” Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Automobile Manufacturers Association, once told me.
David Adams, president of the import-oriented Global Automakers of Canada, previously said that rather than resorting to quotas, a better idea is to have levels of government expand the range of incentives and increase the public’s understanding that driveway-ready EVs are available now.
But that’s unlikely to happen now that Ontario, under a majority Progressive Conservative government, has scrapped the electric-vehicle incentive program that used to provide a rebate of up to $14,000 per sale.
So, if just two provinces — B.C. and Quebec — offer incentives and the federal government is serious about its climate-change action plan, quotas and mandates may be on the horizon.
Especially if one of the biggest automakers in the world now backs the idea — like it or not.