Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

The Lucid Air on display at the 2023 Montreal Electric Vehicle Show.Michael Bettencourt/The Globe and Mail

In contrast to a recent auto show trend, most carmakers with an electric vehicle for sale in Canada are displaying their production cars and some concepts this weekend at the sixth edition of the Montreal Electric Vehicle Show taking place at Olympic Stadium.

Zero-emissions vehicles (fully electric and plug-in hybrid cars) have seen a steady rise in popularity in Quebec and the province often has more ZEV sales than any other. In 2022, 12 per cent of new car sales were electric, compared with 0.7 per cent in 2015.

Visitors can sit in and test drive many of the newest EVs from Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Tesla, Mitsubishi, Cadillac, BMW, Mini, Toyota, Volvo, Polestar, Lexus and Audi. Lucid is even displaying a $150,000+ Air sedan with the doors unlocked.

And Volkswagen brought their ID.Buzz pre-production electric minivan that won’t arrive until 2024. Overall, there are 50 models on display from 20 brands and 60 test vehicles. Porsche and Mercedes-Benz are notably absent.

What this show also offers, perhaps most importantly, is easily the most available brand new EVs to test drive all in one place with drives available to visitors both inside and outside on public roads.

And those available test drive vehicles include an example of that six-figure Lucid.

Many of the biggest makers including Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, Mazda, BMW and Mercedes-Benz skipped the main Toronto and Montreal shows and only four makers (General Motors, Ford, Stellantis and Toyota) attended what once was one of the biggest shows in the world, the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, last September. The planned 2023 shows in Vancouver and Calgary were cancelled altogether, but a Vancouver EV show planned for September has already confirmed various major automakers.

Open this photo in gallery:

Audi e-trons on display at the 2023 Montreal Electric Vehicle Show.Michael Bettencourt/The Globe and Mail

So what does it mean for consumers and the auto show business when major vehicle brands skip major shows, but appear with their electric options at smaller EV shows?

“Every year, we evaluate the best possible ways to get our vehicles in front of Canadians,” said BMW Canada’s product and technology manager Jean-Francois Taylor, whose company didn’t have vehicles at either ‘legacy auto shows’ in Toronto or Montreal. “The [Montreal EV show] provides a good opportunity for the public to see and experience our newest electrified vehicles first-hand, especially as they look to enter the EV space for the first time.”

Open this photo in gallery:

The concept Polestar Roadster on display at the 2023 Montreal Electric Vehicle Show.Michael Bettencourt/The Globe and Mail

We reached out to seven of the companies that have vehicles on display here but weren’t at the main Montreal show in January (Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, Polestar, Volvo, Genesis and Lucid). None of the carmaker’s representatives wanted to discuss specifics about how the marketing decisions are made, but talked about the value in reaching this particular audience and the ability for visitors to test the cars.

Polestar is attending the show for the third year in a row, displaying a sleek Roadster concept that is headed to production, to be called the Polestar 6 by the time it arrives closer to 2026. The company has opened reservations of 500 special editions globally for the Roadster.

Open this photo in gallery:

A Ford F-150 Lightning being used for test drives at the 2023 Montreal Electric Vehicle Show.Michael Bettencourt/The Globe and Mail

“It’s a different kind of EV consumer here, they have already adopted EVs, and many are closer to the bottom of the [sales] funnel,” said Polestar Canada country manager Hugues Bissonnette.

He said the company is open to considering attending full-line legacy shows, but values the test drive component. “In our opinion a test drive experience in the real world remains key for considering those type of events in the future.”

Fellow EV-only brand Rivian is not participating in either full-line or EV shows in Canada, as it grows its presence from its current B.C. base. “Rivian’s top priority and focus is on production and fulfilling customer deliveries,” said a company spokesperson. “Because of this, we are not currently committing to any of these types of events.”

Luxury brand Genesis also didn’t attend the main Montreal show but is here at this EV show. It displayed a couple of their luxury SUVs, including the new Electrified GV70, at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, suggesting that logistics around their own planned vehicle “road shows” and the uncertainty around cancelled auto shows encouraged automakers to plan their own events.

Open this photo in gallery:

The Volvo XC40 Recharge on display at the 2023 Montreal Electric Vehicle Show.Michael Bettencourt/The Globe and Mail

“We hadn’t planned on doing any [auto] shows in 2023 because we simply didn’t know if they would happen,” said Dustin Woods, public relations manager for Genesis. “We wanted a bit more control of our own marketing activities.”

Open this photo in gallery:

The Volkswagen ID.Buzz van on display at the 2023 Montreal Electric Vehicle Show.Michael Bettencourt/The Globe and Mail

Quebec and B.C. lead the country in EV adoption rates. In Quebec, 10 per cent of new cars sold in the third quarter last year were fully electric. The Quebec government is set to introduce two draft regulations aimed at increasing the requirements for the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standard. The goal is to have two million electric cars on Quebec roads by 2030. The current target is 1.6 million electric cars in six years.

With files from The Canadian Press

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles