Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C.

New car dealers steering B.C. along a greener highway

Hundreds of new car and truck dealers are fuelling the province's economy.

There has never been a more exciting and inspiring time to be part of the automobile industry in North America, particularly here in British Columbia.

In B.C., new car dealers are not only steering the province along a new, greener highway, but also serving as a major partner within each of our 54 provincial communities.

There are more than 350 new car and truck dealers throughout B.C., supporting 34,000 full-time jobs, while pumping almost $10 billion into the economy.

In fact, in 2010, our members provided $1.8 billion of the total B.C. gross domestic product.

That’s $100 million more than the $1.7 billion in GDP generated by the B.C. film and television industry and comparable to the boost sparked by the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

We provide 15,000 direct jobs, with dealerships employing an average of 40 full-time and seven part-time workers, who get higher pay rates than their retail counterparts.

Not only that, our members are at the heart of their communities, working with youth and sports programs and donating more than $13 million annually to B.C. charities.

At the top of the priority list for our members is working with auto manufacturers to bring an unprecedented range of clean energy, fuel efficient and highly innovative vehicles into the B.C. marketplace. And we’ve been doing just that.

Huge technological advances in auto and truck manufacturing mean more energy efficient vehicles are now available and from 2011 to 2016, average fuel efficiency across the range of vehicle offerings will increase by as much as four per cent every year.

B.C. new car dealers offer a full range of energy-efficient vehicles to their customers and we are looking forward to adding more clean energy options down the road.

They include hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), which run on two systems: a conventional gasoline-powered engine and an electric motor. The electric motor gives a vehicle extra power when it is accelerating or going uphill and can power it over short distances. Meanwhile, the gasoline engine and a special braking system recharge the battery.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) take this a stage further with a larger battery that can be recharged using the vehicle’s gasoline-powered motor. Typical PHEVs can drive between 20 and 40 kilometres on the electric motor alone, enough for many people’s daily needs.

Electrical vehicles with extended range can drive between 40 and 80 kilometres on electric power alone – and then keep going, thanks to a gasoline-powered generator.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) are powered solely by electric motors and are charged by plugging them into a standard household outlet. They have a range of 100 to 200 kilometres and have zero pollution.

For our industry, becoming part of the overall electrical system is a very exciting prospect and is opening the doors to new partnerships.

It’s much more than buying, selling and driving cars. For the first time, our province is part of the research, development and manufacturing of cars.

Using energy efficient systems can also put money back into drivers’ pockets.

Studies show the annual cost of running a car would drop from $1,600 for a gasoline-powered vehicle to $1,000 or less for a plug-in hybrid and to just $400 for a battery-powered electric vehicle.

We’ve been working hard to get those inefficient vehicles off the road, to make sure more cars and trucks on B.C. roads meet today’s standards.

That’s why B.C.’s new car dealers have endorsed the SCRAP-IT program, which has already taken more than 30,000 older vehicles from B.C. roads, leading to a cut of 200,000 tonnes in greenhouse gases.

We were happy to be part of an announcement on Nov. 5, 2011 detailing new SCRAP-IT incentives for consumers who scrap their 1995 or older vehicle and replace it with one that is 2004 or newer.

They include cash incentives and dealer discounts of up to $1,250, based on the amount of carbon dioxide reduction achieved. Other incentive options include TransLink and West Coast Express passes worth up to $1,359, $750 in car-sharing or ride-sharing credits, or a $500 discount off the cost of a new bicycle.

We are also delighted to support the new, $7.5-million Clean Energy Vehicle (CEV) Incentive Program, which we helped launch, along with the B.C. Ministry of Environment and LiveSmart B.C.

The program started Dec. 1 and will see consumers save up to $5,000 off the pre-tax price of a new CEV.

We’ve been working with car and truck manufacturers to attract new CEVs to B.C. and the new incentive program is an important step, aimed at encouraging vehicle manufacturers to choose B.C. when they develop and deploy new energy technology.

There are already 12 different vehicles made by eight different manufacturers that qualify for the CEV incentives and more are being developed.

Check out our new website at that provides detailed information on vehicles that are eligible for incentives and at which level.

And as always, we’ll amass the greatest selection to date of new energy champions and showcase the hottest technologies set to hit the road at the Vancouver International Auto Show, taking place April 3 to 8, 2012 at the new B.C. Place.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C.