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Canada: The automotive news that had us talking

Despite wildly exaggerated stories about the demise of the personal automobile, there was lots of positive news on global and local fronts

The highly anticipated all-electric Tesla S brought a new spin on the way cars are produced and marketed.

Photograph by: Jim Gensheimer, MCT

So, 12 months on and some 17,500 kilometres later — the average distance Canadians put on their vehicles each year, according to CAA — the automotive business is still rolling down the highway.

As with apocryphal stories surrounding AM radio, vinyl records and the printed newspaper, the death of the personal automobile continues to be greatly exaggerated, a fact best illustrated by the number of positive stories surrounding the industry from this past year.

Here’s a sampling of some global and local ones that had us talking.

Automotive industry sales

Without a doubt, the biggest story of the year surrounding the global automotive industry was the global automotive industry.

Just a few weeks ago Time magazine honoured the U.S. auto industry with a cover story extolling the amazing turnaround of the business from death bed to economic engine. The story cites Chrysler’s return from the dead to sales that are up 23 per cent compared to the third quarter of 2010. The company is expected to see sales of $55 billion in 2011.

Similar examples, though not quite as dramatic, of growth can be found at the other two Big Three — Ford and GM — and at most every global manufacturer these past couple of years.

Somewhat ironic that one of the few positive economic stories in these otherwise gloomy global times is from an industry that a mere 36 months ago was all but written off as dead.

Electric cars come to B.C.

It seems like we’ve been talking, writing and speculating about mass produced electric vehicles since the turn of the century, but 2011 finally marked the arrival of the environmentally friendly four-wheelers to our province.

The all-electric Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-Miev joined the hybrid plug-in Chevrolet Volt as real-world vehicles just in the past couple of months, and the B.C. government stepped up and sweetened the pot by offering multi-thousand dollar rebates off the respective list prices of each in an effort to charge up consumer sales.

Still early days to pass judgment on B.C. drivers’ willingness to pay a premium, even with rebates, on going green, though once gas prices begin their inevitable trek northward in the future, expect an even larger buzz around these electric alternatives.

In the meantime, with the plethora of wildly economical 2012 models on the market, electric cars will maintain their exotic and unique appeal

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