Drop in new car registrations in Sask. may suggest changing attitudes toward vehicle ownership, experts say
Sluggish economy may be to blame for 11% drop from 2014 to 2018, but car culture decline also possible factor
Fewer people are registering new vehicles in Saskatchewan, according to data from Statistics Canada released this week.
While the province's recent economic downturn might be the obvious culprit, Saskatoon CarShare Co-operative board member Dave Palibroda suggests it may also be due to changing attitudes about car ownership.
"It used to be you had to get a car. You turn 16, the most important thing is to get your licence and get a car and drive. It felt like freedom," he said.
"But now it seems as though owning a vehicle is more of a burden in certain situations."
Back in 2014, Saskatchewan drivers registered more than 59,102 new vehicles, according to a Statistics Canada report released Monday. That number dropped steadily in the following four years, hitting 52,382 registrations last year — an 11 per cent drop from 2014.
The province's population grew by about 50,000 over that period, according to provincial government data.
Palibroda and University of Saskatchewan planning professor Bob Patrick agree the province's economic downturn is likely the biggest cause. But they say alternatives are also improving, making car ownership less of a necessity than it has been in the past.
While some need vehicles for work or long commutes, car sharing, cycling, walking and public transit are options for growing numbers of people.
Patrick, who is the chair of the U of S regional and urban planning program, says policy makers should take note of that.
"Here's a chance to use this as an opportunity to further push transit, push urban design and push good land-use planning."
One category of vehicle registrations was up in Saskatchewan, though, according to the Statistics Canada data.
More people are registering electric and hybrid vehicles.
The numbers are still small — those vehicles still account for well under one per cent of the total number registered in the province.
But registrations for battery electric vehicles grew from just eight in 2014 to 45 in 2018.
Plug-in hybrid registrations saw a similar increase, going from 11 to 43.
Hybrid electric vehicle registrations, meanwhile, have fluctuated, according to Statistics Canada. There were 214 hybrid electric vehicles registered in 2014, but fewer than 200 registrations in each of the following three years.
The number climbed back up to 229 last year.