Analysis: Canada’s accelerated timeline for electric vehicles highlights key piece of legislation

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A charging port is seen on a Mercedes Benz EQC 400 4Matic electric vehicle at the Toronto International Auto Show in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo

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TORONTO, April 13 (Reuters) – Canada’s accelerated timeline to fully adopt electric vehicles (EVs) poses a threat to some auto suppliers and auto mechanics, with the latter pinning their hopes on key legislation to adapt to the changing needs of industry.

Last month, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government set a mandatory target for all new light-duty cars and passenger trucks to be zero emissions by 2035, up from an earlier target of 2040. Recent investments by General Motors Co (GM.N) and Ford Motor Co (FN) in their Canadian units to primarily boost electric vehicles gives hope to the parts industry in the immediate future. Read more

“Where there is a risk is on parts manufacturers who make parts for internal combustion components like engines and transmissions,” said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association. .

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Volpe noted that these parts will disappear in the coming years, and it is feared that the companies will not be able to adapt, if they even remain the suppliers after new competitors enter the market.

Auto parts are Canada’s fifth-largest export industry, employing about 71,400 workers in January, according to official data. Volpe is still confident that many established parts manufacturers will be preferred, given their track record.

Industry groups say the shift to electric vehicles is a bigger threat to auto mechanics, who could struggle unless the ‘right to repair’ bill is passed in Canada.

This bill was reintroduced in Parliament in February, after being killed in the House of Commons in August 2021 before the federal election. The bill would require major automakers to share parts, software and training used to repair products.

Failure to pass the bill could lead to the closure of many mechanics and significant job losses in the sector, said Jean-Francois Champagne, president of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, which represents automotive supply and service chains.

About 109,816 Canadians work in the auto repair and service industry, according to a 2022 report from Statistics Canada. According to the Conference Board of Canada, switching to electric vehicles with technology that allows for greater automation and over-the-air software updates could result in the loss of 53,707 jobs by 2051 in a worst-case scenario.

FIGHT FOR DATA

Currently, the computers of electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla (TSLA.O) are connected in a “closed ecosystem”, which makes them inaccessible to typical mechanisms.

“If you have a Tesla today, Tesla will pretty much determine where you go to get your car serviced, they’ll determine what parts you put in and how much you’re going to pay,” Champagne said.

Tesla had no immediate comment. But in 2020, Tesla urged customers in Massachusetts to vote against updated “right to repair” legislation, arguing it would pose safety concerns. Tesla already has an open source philosophy for much of its patented intellectual property, he said. Still, Massachusetts voters approved the “right to repair” bill.

Jamie Keeler, owner and sole mechanic of Keeler Automotive in Ontario, said Canadian legislation will ensure customers have the freedom to choose who fixes their car.

“If you’re a licensed mechanic, you should be able to fix anything on the road and have access to the software to do it,” said Keeler, who services an average of 50 to 60 cars a week.

Keeler, who has been a licensed mechanic for three decades, said if a “right to repair” petition comes along, he would happily sign or vote on it.

The United States already adopted a “right to repair” policy in July 2021, as part of a sweeping executive order signed by President Biden. With the content of the Canadian bill already formed and previous support established, its biggest hurdle will be the automakers fighting to overturn it in the coming months.

The Automotive Innovation Alliance did not immediately comment when asked about Canada’s proposed ‘right to repair’ legislation.

“Automakers want to control the data in the car because that’s what’s going to be monetized on the road, just like your cellphone did,” Champagne said. “So it’s a fight to control the data, and they’ve been very active in fighting these legislations wherever they can.”

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Reporting by Alexander Schummer, writing by Denny Thomas Editing by Ben Klayman and Nick Zieminski

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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