Ontario taxpayers subsidized buyers of $1.1 million Porsche 918 Spyder

The Ontario government gave cash incentives to five millionaires to buy one of the most expensive cars ever manufactured, the Porsche 918 Spyder, CBC News has learned.

Government shelled out nearly $800,000 in rebates for cars with six-figure price tags

Ontario taxpayers subsidized five drivers to buy the Porsche 918 Spyder, a plug-in hybrid car that retailed for about $1.1 million. (Porsche)

The Ontario government gave taxpayer-funded rebates to five millionaires to buy one of the most expensive cars ever manufactured, the Porsche 918 Spyder. 

CBC News has learned that five Ontario drivers received funding through the province's Electric Vehicle Incentive Program in 2015 for buying the Porsche 918, which retailed in Canada at about $1.1 million. 

The 918 is a plug-in hybrid, assembled by hand at a specialized Porsche factory in Stuttgart, Germany, and hailed by the company as "the future of the sports car." Road tests showed the 887-horsepower supercar could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.2 seconds. 

Documents obtained by CBC News show the taxpayer-funded rebates to five Porsche 918 Spyder buyers in Ontario averaged $5,538 each.

"Why are we subsidizing luxury vehicles for millionaires?" asked Christine Van Geyn, Ontario director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, in an interview with CBC News. "If you can afford a Porsche Spyder you probably don't need a $5,000 subsidy from regular folks." 

Ontario taxpayers shelled out just over $362,000 in incentives to 64 buyers of the BMW i8, a car that currently retails at $150,000 in Canada. (BMW)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne reacted to the CBC News story on Tuesday with a similar tone.

"If anybody's paying that amount of money for a car, they probably don't need a $5,000 rebate, I get that," Wynne told reporters in Hamilton. 

Wynne noted that her government recently changed the rules for its electric vehicle incentives, so cars that retail for more than $150,000 are no longer eligible for rebates.

"We have refocused the program to make sure that it's targeted at the most efficient technologies and affordable vehicles," she said. 

Porsche manufactured only 918 of the Spyders for distribution worldwide, and they sold out within a year. A used Porsche 918 Spyder with 355 kilometres on the odometer is currently for sale from a Montreal dealership for $2,050,000.  

Dragon's Den judge Michael Wekerle is seen in his Porsche 918 Spyder in 2014. (Michael Wekerle)

Multi-millionaire investor Michael Wekerle of CBC Dragons' Den was one Ontario-based buyer of the vehicle. Wekerle's spokesperson Kelly Pullen told CBC News on Wednesday that he did not apply for a rebate. Wekerle's Porsche 918 went up in flames at a service station in Caledon, northwest of Toronto, in September 2014. 

Few electric vehicles were on the market when Ontario's incentive program was launched in 2010, said Transportation Ministry spokesman Bob Nichols in a statement. "The program's objectives at this time were to support the adoption of electric vehicles and to incentivize early adopters," he said.  

"The whole program should really be scrapped," said Van Geyn. "We don't need to incentivize people to be buying these cars. It just doesn't make any policy sense."

The documents obtained by CBC News reveal that Ontario taxpayers have subsidized the buyers of other cars with six-figure price tags.

  • $362,032 in incentives to 64 wealthy Ontarians to buy the BMW i8, a car that currently retails at $150,000 in Canada. 
  • $212,500 in subsidies to 25 drivers to buy the Fisker Karma (retail price: $103,000 US, or roughly $130,000 Cdn ).
  • $170,000 in rebates to 20 buyers of the Tesla Roadster Convertible (retail price: $109,000 US, or roughly $138,000 Cdn). 

From the program's inception in 2010 until the changes announced in February, Ontario gave $39 million in electric vehicle incentives to 4,793 drivers. The most popular vehicle in Ontario's electric vehicle incentive program is the Chevrolet Volt Hatchback, with 1,200 owners getting rebates totaling $9,955,748.

Ontario Electric Vehicle Incentives Since 2010
Make & Model Buyers Total incentives
Porsche 918 Spyder  5 $27,690
BMW i8 64 $362,032
Fisker Karma 25 $212,500
Tesla Roadster Convertible 20 $170,000