There is little question that rebates are essential to selling EVs, but no one really knew just how much until now.
Sales of electrified vehicles have plummeted in Ontario since the Doug Ford government removed purchase incentives, and Quebec dealers are reaping the benefits as inventory is reallocated, slashing their wait times for delivery.
Since the Ford government in July ended rebates of up to $14,000 and the final recipients were registered Sept. 10, sales of the Nissan Leaf have all but collapsed. In August, 695 units were sold. In November, just 10, according to figures supplied by Nissan Canada. In Quebec in November alone, 283 units were sold.
General Motors of Canada declined to provide data, but spokeswoman Ester Bucci said the brand has “seen a decline of EV sales” since the rebate’s cancellation, noting that sales in Quebec and British Columbia, where incentives remain in place, are holding strong with Chevrolet Bolt sales posting an overall nationwide increase of 30 per cent year over year. The automaker didn’t provide a brand or model breakdown for December sales.
Chris Budd, owner of Budds’ Group of Companies, which operates nine dealerships in Oakville and Hamilton, Ont., told Automotive News Canada he has seen a decline in interest in EVs at his storefronts.
“We do find [EVs have] pulled back in consideration and sales,” he said. “Our GM facility sold and delivered 91 electric cars last year when the credit was in place. We expect less than 20 with no credit in place.
“It was a growing business and we would have forecast an increase had the credit stayed in place. Supply was always a problem as availability was very lean from GM.”
BUYERS WAIT AND SEE?
Budd said he wasn’t sure whether the decline was due to an untenable price for EVs without the subsidy, or whether consumers were waiting to see whether Ottawa would offer an alternative rebate program.
“There is no doubt that the consumer for electric was somewhat different ... more conscious of the environment, new technology, being ground breakers, etc., so we believe some of the backdraft that is present now after the cancellation of credits will pass,” he said. “I believe the credit was too high in Ontario, and if there were a federal program of a more tenable cost/credit was available, we would have a logical uptick.”
Meanwhile, dealers in Quebec are celebrating as automakers redistribute inventory to their stores, dramatically reducing wait times.
“We are receiving an incremental amount of hybrid vehicles in Quebec,” said Denis Leclerc, president of the Albi group of dealerships. “As an example, in our Hyundai dealerships, ordering a hybrid vehicle used to take three to four months. Now, we talk about three to four weeks.
“Another example is Chevrolet. Last year, it took six months to receive a Bolt, and now it takes eight to 10 weeks. We also have Volt in our inventory, and last year this wasn’t the case.”
Hugo Jeanson, co-owner and general manager of Bourgeois Chevrolet in Rawdon, Que., told Montreal-based newspaper La Presse that his dealership expected to receive more than 150 plug-in electric vehicles and hybrids in November and December 2018, one-third of which was to come from Ontario dealerships.
The story is similar for Nissan dealers. Patrick Quintal, sales manager for Nissan Saint-Hyacinthe, told La Presse that he is astonished to have Nissan Leaf EVs “ready to be delivered” in his showroom.
“Before, a buyer had to wait three months to take possession,” he said. “This has been reduced to one month and, as we speak, there are vehicles available in my showroom.”
Although there had been speculation that the newly elected, right-of-centre CAQ government in Quebec would follow Ontario’s lead, it confirmed Nov. 2 a commitment to the province’s incentive program.