Car News

Most Significant Automotive News Stories of 2023

For the first time in three years, Canadians shopping for a new vehicle finally had some cars to look at on dealer lots that had been mainly empty since the summer of 2020. With billions of automaker dollars poured into electric vehicles (EVs), many buyers in 2023 found a wider variety of new hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and battery-electric vehicles.

Along with the change in Canadian dealer showrooms, the transition to an electrified future was also front and centre in 2023 with government policy and manufacturing announcements. As we look ahead to 2024, here are the news stories that were the most significant in 2023, beyond Cybertrucks and union talks.

Toyota Goes All-In on EVs

Toyota’s position on the electrification of the automobile has always been a bit contradictory, arguing against all-electric vehicles but pushing hybrids and hydrogen power. So far, the only battery-powered Toyota has been the bZ4X (and its Lexus RZ and Subaru Solterra clones), which have been less than enthusiastically received by critics. But 2023 will go down as the year Toyota looked ready to jump on the battery-electric bandwagon, announcing earlier in the year an all-new EV strategy with entirely new platforms, manufacturing processes to lower production costs, solid-state batteries promising longer driving ranges, and even EVs with manual transmissions.

Industry Adopts Tesla’s North American Charging Standard

Tesla at a public charging stall

Travellers know that visiting a different country may involve bringing an adapter to plug their electronics into hotel room sockets. Early EV adopters have faced a similar challenge due to different charging port designs, however, with the proliferation of Tesla’s Supercharger network, most EV makers announced in 2023 that they would be moving their charging hardware to match Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS). This move will expand access to chargers around North America but won’t happen overnight, as Ford said it will move to NACS starting with its 2025 model-year EVs.

EV Sales Stall

In 2023, Canadian car dealers saw more and more buyers interested in owning an EV, but the rush to buy battery-electric vehicles isn’t happening as fast as many had predicted. The result: many EV makers postponed or scaled back their EV plans, anticipating a slower adoption to an electric future. In October, General Motors delayed production of its full-size EV trucks, and Honda cancelled a deal to build affordable EVs with GM. Ford said it would shift its investments to plug-in hybrids instead of battery-electric while cutting production of its F-150 Lightning electric truck in half. Even Tesla, which remains the biggest seller of EVs, was forced to cut prices in 2023 due to competition and slowing demand.

Ontario to Become an EV Manufacturing Hub

As sales of EVs take a breather, the Canadian auto industry moved ahead in 2023 with multiple EV manufacturing announcements. Of the five automakers that assemble vehicles in Ontario, Ford and Stellantis revealed plans for new battery production facilities, with a third coming from the Volkswagen Group. Ford will transition its existing Oakville plant to build a new EV, including a battery pack assembly facility, by the end of 2024. Stellantis is breaking ground with an all-new battery plant in Windsor, which is also expected to begin operations in 2024, while VW is creating the automaker’s largest EV battery plant in the world in St. Thomas.

Brampton Plant Marks the End of an Era

One result of the Canadian industry’s move to EVs is the inevitable displacement of the assembly of gas-powered vehicles. Such was the case in December 2023, when the Stellantis plant in Brampton, Ontario, ended production of the gas-powered Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and Challenger models. Starting with the 300 sedan and the Dodge Magnum station wagon in 2004, followed by the Charger sedan a year later and the Challenger coupe in 2008, for almost 20 years, the Brampton plant has created some of the most iconic modern muscle cars, highlighted by various HEMI and Hellcat V8 models.

Canada Sets 2035 Zero-Emission-Vehicle Deadline

Adding to the argument that the future of cars will be electric, the Canadian federal government announced its Electric Vehicle Availability Standard (EVAS) policy in late 2023. The EVAS retains the main sales goals of the government’s 2022 draft where 20 per cent of new cars, SUVs and pickups sold in Canada by 2026 are to be zero-emission vehicles (as in plug-in electric hybrids and battery-electric vehicles), 60 per cent by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2035. In addition to the sales targets, automakers are motivated to sell PHEVs with an extended electric-only range of 80 km and above.

Canadian Car Buyers Balanced “Optimism With Utility” in 2023

In a year that saw shoppers struggle with a changing marketplace, Canadian car buyers still held an optimistic outlook, according to data released from AutoTrader in December 2023. Among AutoTrader’s Top Searched Vehicles of 2023, 60 per cent were made up of luxury sedans and sports cars, led by the Ford F-150 full-size pickup truck, followed by the second-place Porsche 911 sports car, and the Honda Civic compact in third. As for AutoTrader’s Top Sold Vehicles of 2023, 90 per cent of the Top 10 vehicles sold in Canada were functional, utility vehicles, like trucks and SUVs, with no luxury brand appearing.