Skip to content

New vehicle sales jump in B.C., Canada in March as prices fall

New truck sales continue to dominate, compared with new car sales
New cars await delivery at a depot on Steveston Highway and No. 6 Road

Sales for new vehicles jumped in March in B.C. and across Canada as inventory levels surged and consumers had plenty of models to choose between. That inventory was likely also at least partly behind the trend of lower purchase prices. 

Data from Statistics Canada show dealers sold 19,542 new vehicles in B.C. in March, up 27.5 per cent from the 15,327 new vehicles sold in February, and 16.4 per cent from 16,795 new vehicles sold in March 2023.

Trucks continue to be far more popular than cars, as more than 83.8 per cent of all vehicle purchases in B.C. in March were for trucks, according to the national number cruncher. In March 2023, more than 84.4 per cent of all new vehicles sold in B.C. were trucks. There were only two categories: trucks and passenger cars, with SUVs considered to be trucks. 

Evidence that inventory levels were high come from the online marketplace Autotrader. 

The number of new vehicles for sale in Canada on AutoTrader’s online marketplace hit a record high of 168,000 vehicles in February – a 78-per-cent, year-over-year increase, according to that sales platform. Inventories then stayed high in March, according to Autotrader.

Today's Statistics Canada data did not break down the March new vehicle sales to show sales for electric vehicles, compared with traditional gas guzzling ones. 

Premier David Eby’s government introduced legislation in October that forces automakers to meet escalating annual targets for the proportion of their overall new vehicle sales that are light-duty, zero-emission vehicle sales and leases within the province.

The legislation puts into law Victoria’s aspiration that 10 per cent of vehicle sales be EVs, or plug-in hybrids, by 2025, and 26 per cent of those sales be EVs, or plug-in hybrids, by 2026.

B.C.'s mandate for EV and plug-in hybrid sales then soars to 90 per cent by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2035.

Any automaker that does not meet those percentages for their own sales in the province by those designated years is set to face fines equal to more than $20,000 on each vehicle sold above that threshold, New Car Dealers Association of British Columbia president and CEO Blair Qualey told BIV last year

Qualey today added that his organization is urging the B.C. government to commit to ongoing support for the Clean BC Go Electric Vehicle Rebate Program, which the New Car Dealers Association has administered on behalf of the province for the past 13 years. That program makes ZEVs more affordable for many consumers.

"It can mean the difference between deciding to purchase or not purchase a clean energy vehicle," Qualey said, after ferrying to Vancouver Island. 

"We’re holding a display of about 20 EVs in the front driveway of the legislature in Victoria tomorrow from noon until 2 pm.," he said. "This annual event provides an opportunity for MLAs, ministers and their officials to see the diversity of EVs available for B.C. consumers today."

March new vehicle sales were significantly more than recent months 

While the 19,542 new vehicles sold in B.C. in March was the highest monthly total since June, when 20,433 new vehicles were sold in the province, Canada-wide, the new vehicle sales total in March was higher than any month since September 2020. Across the country, 172,104 new vehicles were sold in March, up about 26 per cent compared with February, and up 12.5 per cent compared with March 2023. 

Trucks were even more popular nationwide than they were in B.C., with more than 86.4 per cent of all new vehicle sales across Canada in March being trucks, according to Statistics Canada.

The average truck tends to cost more than the average car, both in B.C. and across the country.

In B.C., truck buyers spent an average $59,088 on their purchase, or about 6.7 per cent more than the average $55,380 spent per purchase on new trucks countrywide in March. B.C. car buyers spent about $43,998 on average on their purchases, or about 1.36 per cent more than the average $43,408 spent on new car purchases across the country in March.

The average truck purchase price in B.C. in March was down more than five per cent from the same month one year ago, when the average purchase cost $62,212. The average new car purchase in March 2023 was $53,375, or more than 21.3-per-cent more than in March. 

[email protected]