By E. Layton Dorey
Escape From Jesusland
In the wake of this year’s election results, some of you may be looking to the north (or south, as is the case for many in Michigan!) with an eye to emigrating. My husband, Tim, and I have decided to take advantage of my Canadian citizenship and leave “Jesusland” behind. We know that not everyone will agree with this course of action, but for us it is the right choice (and if anyone finds themselves in Windsor, please stop by for a visit!)
I thought I’d point out some important differences in Canada’s auto market that you may wish to take note of.
First, Canada uses the “metric” system. Road signs report distance in “kilometres.” If you are driving an American car in Canada, you’ll have to look at the small numbers on your speedometer, usually written toward the center of the dial. While Canadians have a (well deserved) reputation for friendliness, don’t expect the police to look kindly on you traveling at 50 MPH when the posted speed is 50 KPH.
Also, don’t rely on your odometer or trip computer to give you useful information on how far you’ve traveled or can yet go on the few drops of gas still in your tank. One mile is approximately 1.6 kilometres, so unless you’re good with math you’ll want to make sure you don’t push it too far between fill-ups.
Speaking of gas, it is sold by the litre in Canada. The similarity to distilled beverages doesn’t end with how it’s dispensed either, as right now it’s priced (per litre) close to that awful wine-in-a-box your straight neighbors served last Christmas! And, you’ll want to note, a vehicle’s fuel economy is measured as “litres per hundred kilometres.” That yields figures for comparative purposes of “x/100km.” The smaller the “x” number, the better.
Now, on to the cars.
Devotees of my column will recall that some months ago, I “predicted” that the trend to experience the most growth over the next couple of years would be “small and smart” vehicles. The Canadian market obviously listened to my advice, as just last month the Smart ForTwo “city coupe” became available. Smart, a division of DaimlerChrysler, had previously only sold the tiny (and I mean TINY) car in Europe. It is easy to park and gets great fuel economy, but if you plan to go anywhere outside an urban core, you may want to consider something a bit more substantial.
Moving up the size ladder, then, we get to a couple of Chevrolets not sold (as Chevrolets) in “Jesusland.” The Chevrolet Optra will be more familiar to you as the Suzuki Forenza – which is how the very same vehicle is badged in the U.S. Similarly, the Chevrolet Epica is sold in the U.S. as the Suzuki Verona. Pontiac offers its own version of the Chevrolet Aveo, known in Canada (only) as the Pontiac Wave.
All of this is attributable to GM’s enormous corporate diversity. It owns Daewoo – which makes all these models – and Suzuki (along with many other brands). While outside the U.S. Chevrolet has a variety of Asian-made products wearing the bow-tie to flush out the lower end of the product spectrum, we here in Jesusland have been happy to lap up the very deficient Cavalier for so long that only recently have low priced Chevys that you may actually want to drive been introduced.
Skipping over to Ford, we see … only Ford. Not a Mercury in sight – except old ones. That’s because Ford’s “volume-premium” alter ego doesn’t exist in Canada. Perhaps it’s because the market is too small, perhaps it’s because the people are too smart. For whatever reason, Ford’s dressed in extra chrome, “waterfall” grilles and standard partial-leather seating will no longer be available for your driving pleasure post-emigration.
At DaimlerChrysler, we find all the comforts of home, with no brand restructuring. All your favorite models are represented, though the trim levels and specifications will differ.
The Europeans hold few surprises, with the exception of the entry level BMW 320i. Still featuring a six cylinder engine, it is a Canadian-only entry level 3-series sedan. While the engine offers adequate performance, the equipment level is so stingy you’re probably still better to go for a 325i (unless you don’t mind sitting on the leatherette-only seats).
Among the Asians, the cost of saving the planet is steep at Toyota, who charge a whopping $30,330 for a basic Prius. They will, however, sell you an Echo with a hatchback as an alternative to the trunk’d version that is offered in the U.S.
At Nissan, you have the option of a very competent small (Escape sized) “soft roader” known as the “X-Trail.” Not offered in the U.S., this cute little thing is among the pick of the “soft-roader” crop and offers a “panorama” glass sunroof.
Once you’ve surveyed the market and relished the offerings not previously available to you, sit down before you look at the price. Everything – including cars – costs more dollars than in the U.S. – and at the current exchange rate, they are more expensive in real terms.
Then there is the tax situation. In Canada, there is a Goods And Services Tax (GST) that you pay in addition to the provincial sales tax. When you add them up, it looks like a lot of taxes. Remember, however, that you pay the same proportion in taxes to the Jesus freaks running the show in the U.S. While this may strike you as untrue, the U.S. has a “manufacturer’s sales tax” that is built into all retail prices here, but is essentially the same as Canada’s GST. The difference is that in Canada the tax isn’t “hidden” as it is in the U.S. (by being buried in the final retail price).
You already have a perfectly good car, you say? Why not just take it with you? Well, first check with Transport Canada to make sure you can. I have been deeply saddened to learn that my beloved VW R32 can not be imported to Canada. Lots of other cars are on the “no go” list as well, so if you want to take yours, check that you can first. If you do import a car, you’ll have to pay customs duties, provincial sales tax and GST on the value over C$10,000, too.
But really, what is the price of freedom?