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Chevrolet Trax (General Motors/General Motors)
Chevrolet Trax (General Motors/General Motors)

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Chevy makes Trax for Canada Add to ...

The Canadian Chevrolet lineup will once again expand beyond that of its U.S. counterpart with the addition of the Trax compact crossover, which will be based on similar architecture to the already announced Buick Encore.

The five-seat Trax will arrive in Canada and Mexico during the fourth quarter of this year, and eventually in 140 countries, GM Canada announced this week, after it is publicly unveiled at the Paris auto show in September.

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That will bring it in just ahead of the Buick Encore, now scheduled for a spring 2013 launch, even though the Buick has already been shown at various international and Canadian auto shows.

From a single released photo, the Chevy Trax looks to be an attractively swoopy mini-ute that could make increasingly fuel conscious Americans look longingly over their borders. GM Canada already sells the Orlando compact seven-seater that's not available in the U.S., though its practical but more homely body likely holds less design appeal than the Trax promises.

According to Chevrolet's U.S. office, the Trax won't be marketed there “because of the strong position of the Equinox,” a vehicle that has sold similarly well here in Canada.

The Trax, and the Encore, will be derived off the platform used in the Chevrolet Sonic, a small sedan or five-door hatch that currently straddles the compact segment in between its larger Cruze sedan sibling and the upcoming smaller Spark subcompact hatchback.

BMW surprise: 3 Series wagon coming to North America

The new-generation 3 Series sedan that's just starting to arrive now at BMW dealerships will spawn a new wagon version that will indeed come to North America, which seemed in doubt in light of reports to offer a taller GT version of the 3 Series similar to the current 5 Series GT.

BMW confirmed this week that the new 3 Series Sports Wagon will arrive next spring in both Canada and the U.S. The current 328i xDrive Touring will be built until June, before a nine-month layoff or so until the new one arrives.

BMW currently offers the Touring wagon in 328i xDrive (all-wheel drive) form only here, whereas the U.S. Touring offers that same smooth 230 hp 3.0-litre inline six engine, but with xDrive as an option.

The new wagon is taller, wider and longer, in both wheelbase and overall length, much of that room helping out rear seat passengers, as well as increasing rear cargo room in the wagon by almost 10 per cent. Also helping its practicality will be a new powered rear tailgate, which can be opened by a button inside or on the key fob, or if so equipped, via BMW's hands-free tailgate opener, which opens up the rear door when the fob holder places and holds their foot under the rear bumper.

The new 3 Series Sports Wagon, which looks to have lost its Touring designation, will be one of many 3 Series versions to arrive in North America in the next year. An M Sport sedan is slated for this summer, an ActiveHybrid 3 that will be a full hybrid is scheduled for this fall. A coupe is coming early next year, followed by a convertible, with various online reports suggesting that BMW may rechristen its two-door 3 Series models the 4-Series.

And, of course, a new M3 – the vehicle upon which BMW practically built its ‘ultimate driving machine' reputation – is set to appear likely by the end of next year.

RAV4 EV called 'compliance' car

Toyota's RAV4 electric vehicle, the first modern EV to be built in Canada by this summer, has been dubbed one of many mere “compliance” vehicles, in a scathing article on greencarreports.com that's being circulated amongst the active EV forums and social media groups.

The report states that the majority of announced EVs coming to market are simply arriving for auto makers to comply with unique California rules that require a small number of zero emissions vehicles to be sold by the largest corporate sellers of vehicles in the state, starting this year. These companies consist of Toyota, Honda, GM, Ford, Nissan, and Chrysler, in that order.

There are auto makers truly behind EVs – Nissan, Mitsubishi and of course electric-only upstart Tesla – while the rest will produce extended test fleets of low volume test vehicles, or compliance cars meant to meet the ZEV minimum sales requirement, argued the report.

This explains why vehicles like the RAV4 EV, Chevrolet Spark EV, and the Honda Fit EV won't be available in Canada in the foreseeable future. The Fiat 500 EV is also listed as a compliance car, and although Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said at a Fiat dealer opening in Vaughan recently that the 500 EV would be on sale by the end of this year, it's still not clear when – or if – it will arrive in Canada.

Interestingly, the report also placed the Ford Focus EV – which will be sold in Canada starting in late May or early June – on this compliance car list. Sales volume will be driven by customer demand, said Steve Ross, Ford of Canada's sustainability and electrification manager. It will start at $41,199 before taxes and freight, a few thousand more than the Nissan Leaf, its main market rival.

The Toyota RAV4 EV was revealed last week to feature many of the defining characteristics of what author John Voelcker deemed to be compliance EVs: low sales volume of less than 5,000 a year in the U.S., or 20,000 globally (Toyota aims to sell only 2,600 over three years), a high price (at $49,800 U.S. apiece), and not offered for sale outside the California rules states for at least 18 months.

DC fast-charging war on tap

Speaking of electrics, there's a global EV standard war that was officially declared last week, after American and European auto makers announced that they will team up to support a different DC fast-charging standard than the one used by Japanese car makers – and EV market leaders – Nissan and Mitsubishi.

All three regions agreed on a standard for so-called Level 2 chargers, which use a common 240-volt connector that means that any plug-in vehicle can use any firm's charger, as they all use an identical connector-type called a J1772 after its SAE standard number. The vast majority of EV charging in the foreseeable future will be done with these Level 2 chargers, or by plugging into regular 110-volt outlets.

However, a problem is brewing over the 480-volt fast-charging, which would be fast enough to provide an 80 per cent electricity “fill up” in about half an hour on current BEVs. Nissan and Japan have adopted a CHAdeMO standard, short for “charge and move,” while American (GM, Ford and Chrysler) and the five major European auto makers (BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi) have committed to making their fast charge ports compatible with new SAE J1772 “combo connectors.”

These auto makers will produce vehicles with the new type of fast charge ports starting in early 2013.

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