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Ottawa's electric vehicle incentives will spur sales across Canada: Hyundai Canada CEO

Hyundai Kona Electric is displayed during the media preview of the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Chicago. Hyundai Kona Electric is 2019 North American utility of the year. (AP photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The federal government’s new electric vehicle incentive program that goes into effect next week will help spur sales across the country, says Hyundai Canada’s chief executive officer.

“By having a consistent federal program now, we’re actually going to get demand in provinces where we haven’t had demand before,” Don Romano said in an interview with Yahoo Finance Canada.

“We’re going to see, for instance, Alberta and Manitoba now getting electric vehicles. And, more importantly, it prompts people to take a look at a car that they maybe wouldn’t have looked at before.”

Starting May 1, Canadians will be able to get an incentive worth up to $5,000 towards the purchase of a zero-emission vehicle. The three-year, $200 million incentive program was originally unveiled in the March federal budget. Under the plan, the government will provide up to $5,000 towards the purchase of plug-in hybrid, electric battery or hydrogen fuel vehicles, as long as the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is less than $45,000.

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Hyundai Canada is one of many companies that feature vehicles in their lineup that could qualify for an incentive. However, electric vehicle sales have been struggling in Canada, particularly outside of provinces that have an electric-vehicle incentive program or zero-emission vehicle mandates.

Hyundai’s sales of electric vehicles in Ontario is emblematic of this trend. When the newly elected Progressive Conservative government killed the incentive programs in Ontario, Hyundai’s electric vehicle sales in the province “basically stopped,” Romano said.

Romano said that while incentives do artificially stimulate demand for electric vehicles, he said they are a good way to get drivers behind the wheel of a vehicle they wouldn’t have previously considered.

“I don’t see it as a long-term solution, but I think it’s really to prompt initial interest,” he said.

Still, Romano would like to see the federal government go further and provide some consistency across the country when it comes to zero-emission mandates, as well as push to install more electric vehicle chargers. .

For example, Romano says zero-emission vehicle mandates that require a certain percentage of sales to be electric vehicles mean manufacturers will be forced to prioritize certain markets and perhaps neglect others.

“I’d prefer no mandates, but if we’re going to have them, let’s keep them consistent,” he said.

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