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The Honda Odyssey Concept made its debut at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show in February, 2010. (Honda/Wieck)
The Honda Odyssey Concept made its debut at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show in February, 2010. (Honda/Wieck)

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Ontario hybrid rebates disappearing Add to ...

The Ontario government is looking to save money on its announced green car rebates. It has reduced its top rebate available for plug-in electric cars to a still lofty $8,500, and is cancelling the gas/electric hybrid rebate that originally set to run until 2012.

The $2,000 government rebates offered in both Ontario and British Columbia are being matched or surpassed by various manufacturers of gas-electric vehicles, so interested hybrid buyers in these provinces may be wise to get their acts in gear in the next few days. The government programs end on June 30, just before both provinces incorporate their respective provincial sales taxes (PST) into a harmonized sales tax (HST).

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While full details of the Ontario government's plug-in rebate plan are not yet available, the $5,000-to-$8,500 rebate for various types of plug-in electrics or extended-range electric vehicles seems to firmly state the government's view: if it can't be plugged in, it can't receive a tax rebate.

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"Ontario has helped the early adopters of hybrids over the past nine years and now these vehicles have become mainstream - since 2006, the province provided over $24-million in rebates for over 14,000 conventional hybrid vehicles," said Bob Nichols, a senior spokesperson for the Ontario ministry of transportation. "The North American and global automotive industry has changed - today, the province moves forward to develop the market for early adopters of plug-in electric vehicles through this new program."

For the first year of the Ontario government's program, the only vehicles eligible for the program will be two two-seaters, the Smart fortwo Electric Drive and the $125,000-plus Tesla Roadster sports car, although the amount of rebate has not been confirmed yet on either. Nissan's upcoming Leaf will receive the full $8,500 rebate amount when it arrives in Ontario (it will arrive in 2012, or possibly late 2011).

The Chevrolet Volt sedan will be the first "mainstream" plug-in electric vehicle to hit the Canadian market; it is to be available next summer and GM Canada says it will be eligible for an Ontario rebate of $8,230. Ontario scales the plug-in rebate to start at $5,000, and then to increase along with the size of the plug-in car's battery, up to a maximum of $8,500, which is sizable but still notably less than the $10,000 electric car rebate Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty promised last summer.

The rebates will also be limited to the first 10,000 plug-in vehicles sold or leased, capping the program's cost at between $50-million and $85-million. The electric vehicles will also receive green licence plates that will allow them to drive in HOV lanes until at least 2015.

HONDA SHOWS NEW ODYSSEY

Staying true to the Honda Odyssey "concept" revealed at last February's Chicago auto show, the production 2011 people-mover arrives just in time to challenge Toyota's equally new Sienna minivan, with similarly advanced features.

Both share the availability of a massive rear DVD screen measuring 16-plus inches with a split screen function, eight-passenger capacity, and a stated renewed emphasis on comfort and handling. The Odyssey sits an inch-and-a-half lower than the 2010 model, and is a similar amount wider, and will come with an updated 3.5-litre V-6, with cylinder deactivation to help boost fuel economy.

Yet the new Odyssey is most notable for its "lightning bolt" beltline, a jagged, dipping edge along the third-row passenger's window line, a look that had many online commentators wondering why Honda had grafted the rear from another minivan onto it. It's certainly unique, but to these eyes, the sliding door's large shut line that runs over the entire rear fender is the most egregious styling risk, failing to cleanly integrate this track into the rear window sill, as in the new Sienna and the Dodge Grand Caravan, the segment's sales powerhouse.

KIA CANADA UNVEILS FINANCING FOR IMMIGRANTS

Kia Canada is touting itself as the first auto maker to offer financing specifically aimed at new Canadians who have arrived in the country within the past three years and may not yet have established much of a credit history.

The StartRight auto loan program is part of a Scotiabank initiative that Kia says is an industry first among automotive financing programs, although the StartRight program's site also mentions that such financing is also available at selected Chrysler, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Hyundai dealers, among others.

With the Detroit Three shying away from incentive spending, South Korean auto makers like Kia and Hyundai are reaping the rewards. In addition to Kia's StartRight program, the company offers 0 per cent financing on all 2010 models, don't pay for 90 days deals, and the more common military, recent grad, military and special needs discounts.

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