Canadians looking to buy an electric vehicle likely face a long wait, with auto dealerships across the country chronically undersupplied even as policy-makers invest in charging infrastructure and incentives, says a new report commissioned by Transport Canada.
“In the first half of February 2020, only one in three Canadian car dealers had even one electric vehicle in stock,” writes Electric Autonomy. That statistic should concern both federal and provincial policy-makers, particularly as the federal government prepares to announce its plans “to pursue a transition to low-carbon, and how much zero-emission vehicles will be a part of that.”
The situation is even worse for EV buyers who don’t live in Quebec, British Columbia, or Ontario, Electric Autonomy adds. Outside those provinces, fewer than 20%of dealerships had an EV in stock—a disparity of access that “clearly reflects both the market size and the presence of financial incentives and policies intended to stimulate the supply of EVs.”
While the Transport Canada report says the federal government recognizes the scarcity of EVs and is evaluating the need for “additional measures,” the continued lack of cars to purchase seems at odds with the agency’s 2019 commitment, following the introduction of the federal Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles program, to work with automakers “to establish voluntary sales targets to ensure supply kept up with the expected increase in demand,” notes Electric Autonomy. While nationwide inventories of EVs in February 2020 were 3% above November 2019 levels, “they were still 21% below those tallied in December 2018,” even as EV sales rose 25% over the same period.
And those consumers who do manage to secure an EV are not likely to slip behind the wheel anytime soon. “More than 60% of dealerships surveyed had a three- to six-month wait time,” reports Electric Autonomy.
One factor likely hampering orders: dealerships may be unwilling to invest in the new service equipment and extensive training for sales staff required by EVs, particularly as the typical buyer profile moves from the enthusiastically self-informed to the curious. Another potential choke point in the pipeline: dealers reluctant to push EVs, considering that their low maintenance needs could spell lost service revenue down the road.
Frustrated consumers may see the market loosen soon, however. Electric Autonomy notes that some EV manufacturers are starting to see value in the Tesla model of direct sales, taking the dealership out of the supply chain altogether.