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Canada Sets Record for U.s. Vehicle Imports

The percentage of vehicles brought into Canada from the United States has burgeoned. Based on reports, despite local automakers offering cash goodies, the number of cross-border shopping increases.

According to the North American Automobile Trade Association, a trade group of auto importers and exporters, Canadians imported 24,873 vehicles north in October alone. The number is a 68 percent raise from the month of September.

In 2006, the territory eked for the first time more than 100,000 vehicles headed north. This year, imports have already gone beyond 136,000 units. To stress, the figured are expected to hit a new record of 164,000 imports.

"I suspect there is an added psychological boost in having a dollar that trades at par," said Brian Osler, the president of NAATA. "After rounding or approximating numbers, consumers probably feel a little more confident in comparing prices." Osler's comments came after the Canadian dollar lost some ground, dropping to US$1.068 after piercing past US$1.10 Wednesday.

In the context of the overall Canadian auto industry and based on 2006 results, this year's record imports would represent barely four percent of all new and used vehicles sold nationwide, the Financial Post reported. It is apparent therefore, that the vast majority of Canadians are still shopping at home. Analysts say Canadian shoppers are unwilling to go through any hassle and content with the deals they are getting locally.

Based on list prices, the best cross-border deals are for luxury vehicles. Sports cars can sell for $14,000 more in Canada than in the U.S. While this may not be a bad idea for the maker of oil filter Canada sports car manufacturers revolted. As expected, Porsche dealers in Canada were among the first to express their outrage at losing shoppers. In response, the German automaker slashed its prices on new models by an average of eight percent in late September.

But the perception that consumers are being somehow ripped off by car manufacturers and other companies in Canada has become a wider public issue. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty have called on Canadian retailers to lower prices in the face of the soaring dollar, the report continued. That has exerted more pressure on automakers and their dealers to act in a more obvious way albeit many were already offering attractive incentives and better lease and financing deals than their U.S. allies.

"This is really getting on the radar screen for all the manufacturers. It's not just a flash in the pan. The product planners and so on are looking at their cost structure to see how they're going to respond," said Chris Travell, the vice-president of Maritz Automotive Research.

BMW Canada, Chrysler Canada, and Mercedes-Benz Canada Inc. are all among the automakers that have offered extra cash sweeteners to shoppers in October. General Motors of Canada Ltd., the country's largest automaker joined the group yesterday. The company announced it will offer new cash incentives of between $1,500 and $10,000 on select vehicles including heavy-duty pickups and 2008 Saab models.

Some dealers specializing in cross-border sales, as well as some buyers, are bruised over new federal safety standards enforced since the first day of September this year. The mandate requires all new passenger vehicles imported into Canada to have an approved anti-theft immobilization system. Confusion over the new mandate and which cars meet the standard has resulted in a number of well-liked vehicles being tagged "inadmissible" for use in the territory.

About The Author Anthony Fontanelle is a 35-year-old automotive buff who grew up in the Windy City. He does freelance work for an automotive magazine when he is not busy customizing cars in his shop.
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