EVs and the auto outlook for BC: Blair Qualey chat

June 15, 2022
Editor, Canadian auto dealer magazine

New car dealers are an integral part of the British Columbia economy, says a new report released at the BC Chamber of Commerce AGM last week. The new car retail industry generates $15.6 billion in retail activity yearly, and employs 27,000 people in 55 communities across the province, as well as administering the CleanBC Go Electric vehicle purchase rebate program on behalf of the Province of BC. Canadian auto dealer caught up with NCDA BC CEO Blair Qualey to get a more in-depth perspective on the state of the EV revolution in BC, and why the sector is so resilient.

“I took my electric vehicle and went up to Prince George, and then down to the Okanagan, and then back to Vancouver, and it was good to see there were a lot more charging stations than two or three years ago when I last did one of those tours,” said Qualey. “And that was terrific. But as we have mandates in the province to make everything electric, you’re gonna need a lot more charging stations in place all around where people live, work, and play to make sure that we can achieve those targets the government sets.”

Key findings of the MNP LLP study include the fact that the New Car Dealers sector generates $15.6 billion in retail activity—$260 million of direct tax revenue and $610 million of total tax revenue for all three levels of government—along with an estimated $1.2 billion in total tax revenue to all levels of government when factoring in the federal and provincial sales taxes paid by consumers on purchases of new cars.

“For a very long time, car dealers have been an engine of economic activity in the province, and that hasn’t slowed down much, despite the pandemic. We still see the dealers providing lots of family supporting jobs in the province,” said Qualey.

Dealerships are more than just places to sell cars, and this is what makes car dealers so entrepreneurial, said Qualey. So he’s not surprised that dealerships are still highly profitable, despite all the global turmoil and supply issues. “A new car dealership is not just one business. It’s multiple businesses under one roof—used sales, new sales, service, ancillary products, et cetera.” With the variety of products, there is a certain amount of freedom to focus on what is selling at the moment.

Another aspect, aside from operational expenditures, is that NCDA members regularly undertake construction and renovation projects at their dealerships throughout the province. According to the study, “Between 2019 and 2023 annual spending on construction and renovations by new car dealers was estimated to be approximately $33 million, generating $4.3 million of direct tax revenue and $8 million of total tax revenue for all three levels of government.”

Ath the end of the day, Qualey has faith in the industry’s resilience in the face of oncoming challenges, both provincially and all over the country. “Dealers are good at adjusting their businesses to take advantage of what’s strong at the time and take advantage of the good opportunities when they come,” he said. “I don’t expect anything less from our members and their ability to continue to adjust and adapt.”

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