Back for the first time at BC Place post-renovation, the Vancouver International Auto Show makes its 92nd appearance and manages to keep things fresh for consumers who are finally starting to buy again.
“We’re not back to the pre-2008 levels – you know 2006 and 2007 were strong, strong years in the North American auto markets,” said Blair Qualey, president of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. who organizes the show.
“At the worst of the time a couple of years ago (the United States sales were) 10 million vehicles, andnow they’re projecting over 14 million vehicles this year. I think it’s pretty significant for an industry that went through such a challenging time,” said Qualey.
A quiet crowd milled about the stadium opening night that coincided with a Canucks home game. The theme this year for the show focused around technology – particular of the clean energy variety that continues to evolve. Nary a manufacturer was without some type of green offering from the zero-emission Nissan LEAF to the high-stamina Chevrolet Volt that can travel between 40 to 80 kilometres on electric power alone. It still may be some time before we start seeing them rival the Civics and Mazda 3s on the roads, though.
“Slowly but surely — it’s a long slow process anytime you have a new technology. If you think back to big screen TVs when they first came out, not a whole lot of people had one because they were pretty darn expensive,” he said.
“The manufacturers are working really hard, and now with this clean energy vehicle incentive they get up to $5,000 off one of these qualifying vehicles so it makes it much easier to get into it perhaps a little sooner than they might have otherwise.”
Further helping with the cause to go electric were the luxury-sedan Fisker Karma boasting a top speed of approximately 200 km/h, and the Tesla roadster that takes a mere 3.7 seconds to go from zero to 100 km/h.
Aside from purely environmentally-friendly offerings, about 26 of the automotive brands present at the show had their usual staples on display with some debuting brand new models like Scion’s highly-anticipated 200-horsepower rear wheel drive sports car the FR-S. A joint project with Subaru who will be releasing their own version dubbed the BRZ, the affordable sticker price of $25,990 already has enthusiasts signing up on growing waitlists.
“The price was just released on Monday,” said show representative Steven Yago. “In June it should be available at dealerships.” Sleek coupes like the FR-S represents an aesthetic renaissance in the world of cars, said Qualey.
“Some people have suggested that the industry is bringing sexy back in terms of design in the vehicles. There was a period of time that design wasn’t the big focus, but we’re starting to really see some fun coming back into the vehicles,” he said.
“It’s OK now to love your car again.”
The show runs until Sunday. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and $4 for kids. For more information visit www.vancouverinternationalautoshow.com.