Frank Sinatra once sang, “It was a very good year,” and that sentiment could apply to the retail automobile industry in Ontario in 2017.
As of this writing, the Canadian automobile industry was on track to surpass 2 million new vehicles sold in one year. If so, it would be the fifth consecutive year of record sales.
For the retail car industry, the first big highlight of 2017 was the success of the Canadian International AutoShow in February. The show drew 339,590 people over its 10-day run, eclipsing the previous record of 320,000 set the year before.
With several unique and exciting features, and an emphasis on education and careers, the 2017 auto show attracted new and diverse crowds, which has helped make it both a great social and shopping experience. For more information about CIAS 2018, visit autoshow.ca.
A big trend of 2017 was the continued evolution of technology and its impact on the automotive experience. From electric vehicles to autonomous cars, from backup assist cameras to advanced keyless entry systems, technology was front and centre at auto shows and in showrooms, commanding tremendous media attention and interest among car buyers.
EVs and autonomous vehicles attracted the lion’s share of media attention. Over 30 electric and plug-in hybrid models are now available, and EV sales were up 70 per cent in the first half of this year, over the same period in 2016.
As for autonomous vehicles, they continue to be all the rage as auto companies and software firms form partnerships to explore business opportunities. Even Canadian companies — Magna International and BlackBerry Ltd. — have announced their intentions to develop technology components for autonomous vehicles.
Other technological developments in automotive gained traction in 2017. I have written about advances in biometrics and augmented reality. Both technologies are being tested by automakers and could be an added feature on new vehicles within a few years.
One of the big trends in automotive this year has been the continuous growth of online marketing and advertising. Google and Facebook continue to dominate the digital space, as both online powerhouses are predicted to have commanded 63.1 per cent of digital ad spending in 2017.
Both platforms offer auto manufacturers and dealerships advanced targeting and measurement capabilities to attract customers. This has resulted in a new category of ad agency, which specializes in understanding the complexities of these online advertising tools.
Another trend in automotive in 2017 was millennials. Contrary to what you might expect, this demographic represented 28 per cent of the new vehicle market in 2016, according to a J.D. Power Survey. Millennials continue to redefine the automotive buying experience through their widespread use of mobile devices to research and purchase vehicles.
Some automakers are starting to develop ride-hailing and car sharing services for young people who don’t want to own vehicles.
On a personal note, a highlight of 2017 was becoming president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, representing more than 1,100 registered new car dealers across Ontario.
It has been an honour to represent our association at home and abroad. One of the joys of the position has been this Wheels column, where I have an opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions on dealership and consumer issues.
The responses to my column from readers, colleagues, customers, friends, and acquaintances has been overwhelming. Every week, I receive letters, emails and sometimes visits from people who read the column. Thank you to all those who have provided feedback.
On behalf of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, I wish everyone a happy and safe new year!
This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to [email protected] or go to tada.ca. Larry Lantz is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, Ont.
Follow Wheels.ca on