Auto enthusiasts race to record-breaking Canadian International AutoShow

February 22, 2023

“We’re baaaaack!” said an enthusiastic Don Romano, President and CEO of Hyundai Canada in welcoming journalists back to the Canadian International AutoShow during the press reveal at the Hyundai booth.

Romano’s excitement, buoyed by a win moments earlier when the Hyundai IONIQ 5  won the coveted Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year Award, was a good snapshot of the general mood during this year’s return to auto show season in Toronto.

That sentiment was echoed by David McClean, General Manager of the AutoShow who greeted me with an equally enthusiastic: “We’re back baby!” on the show floor during media day.

For some OEMs who pulled out of this show and adopted a wait-and-see approach, they might have more than just a few regrets. For Ontario dealers, they are always hopeful that the surge in consumer interest in new vehicles will result in a boost to their spring sales season. Based on what we’ve seen so far, that hope might be a reality.

Show organizers say 52,122 people attended the opening Sunday of the show— setting a single-day attendance record. The first three days of the show captured the largest audience in the show’s 50-year history.

The return of the in-person AutoShow also ushered in a return to the flurry of other activities around the show such as the return of VIP Night, the CADA Summit, the Automotive News Canada Congress, the alumni event for the Automotive Business School of Canada hosted by taq Automotive Intelligence and Accelerate Auto, OEM meetings, and a host of private parties and functions.

On Wednesday Feb. 22,  a group of 45 Black students and their teachers from five different Toronto District School Board schools from the Scarborough area were greeted at the AutoShow by members of Accelerate Auto (who sponsored and organized the event) and representatives from the AutoShow, TADA, the Automotive Business School of Canada, the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN), the Ontario Centre of Innovation, Ontario Tech University, the APMA and Project Arrow, and representatives from several OEMs.

The students heard some brief presentations about career opportunities in the auto sector, and then toured the show, visiting some of the key exhibits. They then gathered for a fireside chat to discuss their impressions of the show.

Although there are fewer OEMs exhibiting at this year’s show, those that are there are taking advantage of the large space to feature their model line-ups, EVs and are creating experiences for consumers, such as an off-roading experience by Jeep that is one part vehicle demo and one-part roller coaster thrill ride.

EVs are everywhere, including driving on Canada’s largest indoor EV Test Track (70,000 square feet), where visitors can test drive 19 different EV models from nine different brands. Available vehicles include: the Cadillac LYRIQ, Chevrolet Bolt, Hyundai IONIQ 5 and Kona, Kia Niro and EV6, Nissan ARIYA, Subaru Solterra, Lexus NX Hybrid, Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV and bZ4X and the Vinfast VF8.

“Today’s automotive world is far removed from that which existed when the first AutoShow was staged in Toronto 50 years ago,” says Jason Campbell, General Manager of the AutoShow. “We were dealing with an oil crisis then. Today we are in motion to move away from fossil fuels entirely, and consumers are going to have a lot of questions about what the future looks like. The answers can be found all across the AutoShow.”

In addition to the test track, the Electric City pavilion clusters together a range of exhibitors who are supporting the new age of electrification, and where they can learn more about making the switch to electric vehicles.

While sales of EVs in Canada are just north of 5 per cent nationally, the federal government has mandated that all new vehicles sold by 2035 must be zero-emissions vehicles. This push has more Canadians curious to check out the technology. For many, their test drive at the AutoShow will be their first experience inside an electric vehicle.

According to a press release from the AutoShow, key features at Electric City include:

  • EnerSavings is showcasing its residential charging solutions with experts on hand to answer questions, demonstration models of charging systems for homes, condominiums and businesses and will be hosting panel discussions on the electrification of mobility.
  • EV charging solutions from the Ivy Charging Network and Ontario Power Generation.
  • An indoor micro-mobility test track where attendees can try a range of electric bikes from Amego EV, as well as the SARIT (Safe Affordable Reliable Innovative Transport) – the latest innovation from Magna founder Frank Stronach.
  • Technology innovators from both the Canadian East and West coasts will be showcased with the launch of the all-new outdoor adventure vehicle from Potential Motors.
  • A self-propelled high-tech AI Stroller from Vancouver-based Glüxkind – a company most recently awarded honours at the CES Show in Las Vegas for Innovation.
  • Electric vehicle test drive operator — and sponsor of the AutoShow’s EV Test Track — Plug’n Drive will be stationed in Electric City to answer questions about the process of switching to a fully electric vehicle
  • OVIN Corner, a showcase of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network, will include:
    • LoopX AI, founded by a group of robotics students at the University of Waterloo in 2022, with its AI-powered autonomous solutions, from robot deliveries to haulage systems to underground mining.
    • Haze Canada, which has developed a new carbon fibre material that is stiffer than steel yet lighter than aluminum, providing better solutions for mobility applications.
  • Electric City will also feature displays by Sailun Tire, the City of Toronto and Steer EV.
Christopher Nabeta, Exec. Chair, Accelerate Auto, speaks to Black students from four Toronto area high schools who were invited to the Canadian International AutoShow by the organization to tour the show and learn about career opportunities.

About Todd Phillips

Todd Phillips is the editorial director of Universus Media Group Inc. and the editor of Canadian auto dealer magazine. Todd can be reached at

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