Doug Ford weakened EV sales in Ontario: General Motors VP

Ontario Premier Doug Ford Ford has dismissed the credits as a benefit for “millionaires.” (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford Ford has dismissed the credits as a benefit for “millionaires.” (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

General Motors’ (GM) head of electric vehicle adoption says the Canadian EV market is “well on its way,” despite slower sales in Ontario.

Hoss Hassani is GM’s vice president of charging and energy. His job is to get drivers behind the wheel of vehicles from the Detroit-based automaker’s expanding electrified lineup. He’s encouraged by zero-emission vehicles taking a near double-digit share of new registrations nationwide in the final quarter of 2022, pointing out that figure is about six per cent in the United States.

But Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and largest vehicle market, isn’t pulling its weight in the shift to cleaner cars and trucks, he told a crowd at this week's EV Charging Expo 2023 in Toronto.

“Ontario, frankly, is a laggard. Toronto specifically, is a laggard,” he said in reference to adoption of electric vehicles.

According to Statistics Canada data, zero-emission vehicles accounted for 9.6 per cent of new light-duty vehicle registrations in the final three months of 2022. Sales were strongest in British Columbia, at 18.6 per cent of new registrations. Quebec followed with 13.9 per cent. In Ontario, zero-emission vehicles accounted for 8.1 per cent.

Hassani says Ontario’s shortfall is largely due to Premier Doug Ford’s 2018 decision to eliminate a rebate that encouraged the sale of more electric vehicles. Shortly after coming into power, Ford’s government slammed the brakes on electric-vehicle incentives worth as much as $14,000 for qualifying EVs priced under $75,000.

“The loss of that incentive did slow down adoption without a doubt. It meant those who wanted to get into an affordable EV had more difficulty doing that,” Hassani told Yahoo Finance Canada in an interview. “We see in B.C. and Quebec, where they have more of that incentive, they have higher adoption.”

Ford has called the EV subsidies a benefit for “millionaires” as he shifted the government's focus to boosting Ontario’s appeal as a hub for electric vehicle and battery manufacturing.

In response to this article, Jennifer Wright, executive director of communications at GM Canada, said to Yahoo Finance Canada in an emailed statement that, "While GM spoke at the EV and Charging Expo in Toronto last week with focus on work that’s needed to advance EV infrastructure, we take issue with your headline and wish to further underscore that GM greatly appreciates Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s tremendous support for the EV transformation that has also enabled GM to be the first full scale EV manufacturer in Ontario and Canada with our BrightDrop EV factory in Ingersoll.”

Todd Smith, Ontario’s Minister of Energy, spoke at the EV Charging Expo event on Thursday, touting the growing footprint of global automakers in the province focused on an electrified future. However, a spokesperson for Ontario minister of economic development Vic Fedeli on Friday dismissed the idea of reintroducing the EV credit program created by the previous Liberal government.

“Their credits did nothing to build the future of auto manufacturing in Ontario, and instead were used by people who didn't need them to buy cars made somewhere else,” Vanessa De Matteis said in email.

“Our government has taken a different approach, securing billions of dollars of electric vehicle investments and making sure Ontarians can buy electric vehicles made in Ontario by Ontario workers."

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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