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B.C. buyers move away from luxury vehicles, toward electric, suggests report

More economical vehicles like the Honda Civic have gained in popularity with EV vehicles, says a new report. But the Ford F-150 remains the most popular, both in B.C. and across Canada.
Tristan Martin-Jones 3
Richmond's Tristan Martin-Jones charges his electric vehicle in Richmond, B.C. While the province remains the EV-buying capital of North America, other gas-powered vehicles, such as the Ford F-150, remain the most popular models.

B.C. residents looking for a new vehicle are increasingly opting for more humble options, suggests a new report from AutoTrader.

The report, which draws on data from 11 million annual visitors to the buy-and-sell platform, found that while luxury vehicles remained among the most popular, a number of more economical models had gained ground.

In B.C., the Honda Civic supplanted the BMW M on the province’s top 10 most-searched vehicle list, a trend “signifying a continued shift away from luxury vehicles for British Columbia.”

"Affordability continues to be an important factor for Canadian car shoppers, so we weren't surprised to see the Honda Civic — a car known to deliver performance at an accessible price point — become even more relevant," said AutoTrader editor-in-chief Jodi Lai in a written statement. 

In 2020, the annual report found B.C. had the most luxury vehicles in the country, with six vehicles among the most popular models. In 2022, that has dropped to four.

Elsewhere in Canada, larger vehicles “continued to command attention” across the Prairies, including SUVs in Alberta and Manitoba and trucks in Saskatchewan. Eight out of Ontario's 10 most popular vehicles were cars while Quebec had a mix of luxury and economical vehicles, with the Honda Civic and Porche 911 coming in first and second. 

Both in B.C. and across Canada, the Ford F-150 was the most-searched car, according to AutoTrader. 

Nationally, the Honda Civic gained the most in popularity compared to the previous year, moving from sixth to fourth spot. The Toyota Corolla and Camry also rose several spots among the top 20.

The BMW M, meanwhile, was bumped off the top 10 list by the Jeep Wrangler, an SUV.

“With cost of living and gas prices on the rise in 2022, Canadian consumers appear to be giving extra thought to their car purchases,” wrote the automobile marketplace network in a press release.

The most searched vehicles in Canada in 2022 were:

  1. Ford F-150
  2. Honda Civic
  3. BMW 3 Series
  4. Ford Mustang
  5. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  6. Porsche 911
  7. Toyota RAV4
  8. Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  9. Chevrolet Corvette
  10. Jeep Wrangler

AutoTrader’s analysis also included a look at automotive trends it expects in 2023.

Electric vehicle sales soared to new heights in 2022 on the back of skyrocketing gasoline prices in the spring. The website’s search traffic for EVs spiked 148 per cent year-over-year in 2022, and a survey conducted by AutoTrader found two out of three people looking to buy an EV on were reacting in response to high gas prices. 

EV searches were the highest in British Columbia and Ontario, something the group attributes to higher government incentive programs and the arrival of several highly anticipated EV trucks, including the GMC Hummer and the Ford -150 Lightning.

EV versions of the Chevrolet Sierra and Silverado, as well as trucks from Ram are expected to be released in 2023.

B.C. remains the number one per capita buyer of EVs in North America. The sale of electric and other zero-emission vehicles — such as plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell electric vehicles — made up 13 per cent of all new light-duty vehicle sales in B.C. last year, according to the 2021 Zero-Emission Vehicle Update.

By September, that number had climbed to 17.5 per cent, according to Darren Smart, senior vice-president of energy transition and corporate development for the Calgary-based fuel retailer Parkland Corp.

Earlier this month, Parkland said it would double the size of its previously announced electric vehicle charging network in B.C., building 50 ultra-fast charging stations at major destinations from Vancouver Island to Calgary, instead of 25. 

And in Vancouver, Parkland's On the Run network is expected to nearly triple the existing number of ultra-fast chargers in the city's metro area.

A global microchip shortage has also raised interest in second-hand vehicles, says AutoTrader. 

More than a third of people looking for a vehicle on AutoTrader in 2022 said they were willing to switch to a used vehicle.  

With files from the Canadian Press