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The 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel has been named the overall 2014 Canadian Truck King, while the same truck with the Pentastar V-6 and the 2500 heavy-duty three-quarter-tonne version powered by a Cummins Turbo Diesel gave the Ram brand a clean sweep of all three award categories.

The pickup truck challenge event pits a wide variety of full-size pickups against each other in three different categories: Under and Over $45,000, and Heavy Duty. Fifteen pickup trucks were gathered up for the 2014 edition of the contest, 12 in the two light-duty categories, with all of them tested for towing, off-roading, loaded and empty fuel consumption, interior comfort, as well as consumption while towing.

This year's competition marks its sixth year, after being founded by powersports and truck writer Howard Elmer in 2006, with the winner announced both on the competition's website (canadiantruckkingchallenge.ca) and in a release by Chrysler Canada. Details of the win won't be on the site until the articles appear in various outlets, but the contest was judged by five writers last year, with this year's testing also taking place over multiple days and locations.

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"The sweep of the 2014 awards by Ram shows just how hard this [Ram] group has been working," Elmer said in the release. "While many scores this year were very, very close, Ram did edge out its competition in all three categories with quality, styling and innovative powertrain choices – like the new 3.0-litre EcoDiesel and the eight-speed transmission."

Quebec invests big in EV transit plan

The province of Quebec is investing more than half a billion dollars in vehicle and public transit electrification over the next three years as part of its recently announced $2-billion jobs strategy, including a radical plan to put a locally designed and built electric car on the road as part of a new green car sharing program.

The budget allocation for this new electric vehicle, according to Premier Pauline Marois' and the Parti Québécois' ambitious economic policy, will start at $12.5-million, but could rise to "more than $60-million," with a total budget for such large-scale industrial projects of more than $100-million. This investment in a public network of cleaner car-sharing vehicles compares to reported development costs of around $1-billion (U.S.) for Chevrolet's plug-in Volt, a vehicle that uses a platform and engine shared with various regular GM vehicles.

For companies such as BMW and Nissan, which have invested in all-new plants, batteries, and bodies for an upcoming new "i" line of plug-in vehicles and the all-electric Leaf, respectively, total reported development costs are between $2-billion to $5-billion.

The highest portion of the Quebec government's $516-million investment ($244.3-million) will go towards electrifying mass transit, especially in Montreal, while $217-million is earmarked for "targeted initiatives encouraging the use of electric vehicles" by the end of 2017.

Beyond a previously announced vow to eventually replace all provincially-owned fleet vehicles with plug-in hybrids and pure EVs, including those for ministers themselves, little information is available on how exactly such funds will be used. There have already been funds allotted to add 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations in Quebec-owned buildings over the next three years, and now a new $6-million earmarked for their promotion and awareness.

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Another $44-million will be used to create a new Electric Transport Insitute to further R&D into transportation electrification, both commercial and personal. Details of all these programs will be fleshed out further in the province's upcoming Sustainable Mobility Policy, planned for adoption by the end of 2013. The entire $2-billion jobs package is expected to spur 40,000 new jobs by the end of 2017, though how many of those will be related to the electrification of transportation will remain unclear until the detailed measures are released.

More vehicle choices for Canadians

There were 64 more vehicles on the Canadian market to choose from last year than a dozen years ago, with a staggering 57 of those new SUV nameplates, a recent survey by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants found.

There were double as many subcompact cars available in Canada in 2012 (18) than in 2000 (nine), while the number of compact SUVs zoomed up in that time from 12 to 28, followed closely by intermediate SUVs, which grew from 10 offerings to 24 last year. And it's not slowing down, as for 2014, DAC foresees a record number of new-model introductions.

Going in the other direction, the number of intermediate (or mid-size) cars to choose from decreased from 37 in 2000, to 24 offerings in 2012, while the number of minivans available in that same time frame went down from 15 to nine, the report found.

Interestingly, when looking at sales per model offering in the various segments, full-size pickup trucks faced the largest decline, found the survey, even with relatively few new full-size pickup truck nameplates hitting the market over that time.

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Such shifting marketplace trends affect consumers and the industry in a variety of ways: how and where these vehicles are advertised, dealer investment and staffing levels, as well as aftermarket repair and maintenance trends have all changed significantly along with the ever-shifting model mix, the report found.

Advanced pedestrian avoidance systems from Toyota

Two advanced new levels of pedestrian protection by Toyota will include an active "emergency steering" function if it senses that braking alone will not avoid a collision, and there is room to perform an automatic emergency evasive maneuver, the company said recently.

The first level of pedestrian protection has already been introduced in Japan in the Lexus LS model's pre-collision system, which last year incorporated automatic braking with increased force to help prevent collisions with pedestrians. The system will become available by 2015 on a wider range of vehicles, first without the emergency steering function, and later with the startling but potentially life-saving system.

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