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‘Ridiculous increases’: Vancouver Island car dealerships see surge in EV interest

Electric vehicle sales on rise for years, but recent gas prices pushing more drivers to convert
Demand for electric vehicles in Greater Victoria is surging alongside gas prices, according to car dealerships. (Courtesy of Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions)

Electric and hybrid vehicle sales have been on the rise for years, but the recent spike in gas prices is driving Greater Victorians’ interest in them to an unprecedented level, dealerships say.

Ben Jillings, finance manager at Victoria Hyundai, said they’ve been taking EV/hybrid orders at about double the rate they normally would since the end of February. They took 85 in the four days leading up to March 15 alone.

“We’ve seen some ridiculous increases,” he said.

The jump coincides with record-breaking gas prices, driven skyward by Russia’s war on Ukraine and subsequent bans on purchasing Russia’s oil.

On March 2, gas prices leapt 15 cents from 179.9 to 194.9 cents per litre in Greater Victoria. Less than a week later, prices surmounted the previously unimaginable $2 mark to hit 208.9 cents per litre at most stations.

The effect on car sales was almost instantaneous. Representatives at local Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan and Kia dealerships told Black Press Media people are calling them and coming into their showrooms like never before, and the first words out of most of their mouths are “fuel prices.”

READ ALSO: B.C. gas prices top $2 per litre as Russian invasion sends crude oil surging

Brad Ostermann, general manager at Kia Victoria, said approximately 35 to 40 per cent of their sales are on EV/hybrid vehicles normally. Now though, 75 per cent of buyers are interested in them.

He said Kia’s latest electric vehicle is so popular they have to schedule appointments for people to test drive it several days out.

“It’s mind boggling to us,” he said.

The thing is, new car dealerships don’t actually have many EV/hybrids in stock. It’s normal for them to factory order the vehicles for individual buyers, but a combination of pandemic-induced global supply chain issues, recent trucker protests that blocked the Canada-U.S. border, chip shortages, November’s floods, and now increased demand, means the wait time can be long. Much of this applies to gas/diesel vehicles as well.

The four dealership representatives said EV/hybrid buyers are waiting anywhere between one and 18 months for delivery, depending on the model. Toyota’s product advisor and Nissan’s sales manager both said they’ve stopped taking orders on their new hybrid and electric SUVs for the year because they’re so popular.

None of them are concerned that long wait times could deter buyers though. EV/hybrid sales have been on the rise for years.

“I think Victoria has always been a hotbed for electrification,” Ostermann said. Rising gas prices are simply giving hesitant buyers the final push over the fence.

READ ALSO: Canada’s new electric-vehicle registrations soar in 2021 but still lag behind Europe

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