Almost every display from almost every manufacturer at the massive, sprawling show that has taken over the Metro Toronto Convention Centre has an environmentally-friendly component — from cutting edge electric cars to sleek hybrids and high-efficiency engines.
But it’s largely for show, according to one analyst. While automakers have no choice but to play up the green aspect of their R and D, it’s still only a tiny fraction of most carmakers’ business.
“Right now green is still a bit of a novelty,” Mark Richardson, editor of Wheels magazine, tells CTV.ca.
“It’s a niche in every manufacturer’s product line but probably in 10 years time green will be normal and we’ll just expect to see this stuff.”
Companies must demonstrate they have an eye on the future and that their ‘eco-conscience’ is driving the direction their product lines are going — even though green cars are not all that profitable yet, Richardson says.
Quite simply, car makers that want to stay relevant have to be green — or at least appear as if they are, Richardson says.
As a result the Toronto show and the Detroit auto show — the premiere event in North America — have steadily become more and more green-focused over the last few years.
“You watch all the different manufacturers this year — they all have electric cars, hybrid cars. There’s no point in coming out with a regular car as any kind of halo vehicle anymore,” he says.
Even the federal government is getting in on the action. Peter Kent, minister of state of foreign affairs, was at the Toronto show on Thursday to hand out ecoENEGRY Vehicle Awards for the most fuel efficient new cars and light trucks.
“Car and truck emissions account for 12 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Canada every year and the government is committed and continues to be committed to bringing those numbers down,” Kent tells CTV.ca.
Officials from Transport Canada were there too, to announce a new partnership with Mitsubishi to test its new electric car for road-worthiness.
The greening of Canada’s cars seems to be a priority for nearly everyone involved. But there’s still a price tag attached to that goal — for the government, consumers and automakers, Richardson says.
Hybrids still cost thousands more than traditional gas-only vehicles, while electric cars are expected to cost tens of thousands more. Even efficient diesels like the Car of the Year Volkswagen Golf GTI is approaching $10,000 more than its City Golf gas-powered cousin.
Until those prices come down, their sales numbers are likely to compare to the less expensive, more traditionally-powered counterparts.
“There’s a price for being green and people can’t always afford it, but green demonstrates your company is looking into the future and if you’re not green right now you’re not going to be anywhere in 10 years,” Richardson says.
For the foreseeable future, he says, the prevailing colour at auto shows is likely to remain green.