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Understanding the rise of light-duty trucks in Canada

Reversing the trend

This extensive study explains the causes and consequences of the growing preference among Canadians for oversized, fuel-inefficient vehicles, as well as possible solutions.

The challenge

At a time when four out of every five new vehicles sold in Canada are light-duty trucks (SUVs and pickup trucks), it is urgent that we understand the reasons behind this trend, as well as its impacts, in order to reverse it.

In addition to making it harder for Canada to meet its climate and environmental targets, this trend for larger vehicles has many other consequences: traffic, road safety, public health, personal finance, public infrastructure, resource use and so forth.

Équiterre’s awareness campaign about large vehicles is based on the results of this study.

55%

55% of the increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Quebec between 2015 and 2019 was caused by the increase of light-duty trucks on our roads.

Quebec’s GHG emissions rose by 3.37 megatons (Mt) between 2015 and 2019, while the emissions from SUVs and other light-duty trucks rose by 1.84 Mt according to Quebec’s GHG emissions inventory. Light-duty trucks are therefore responsible for over half of the increase in Quebec’s GHG emissions. 
Source

SUVs should no longer be seen as an aspirational possession. They have become synonymous with family, but we have to ask ourselves about the legacy we want to leave our children. Do we really want these ever-larger vehicles threatening our living environments?

Andréanne Brazeau

Policy Analyst, Sustainable Mobility

Équiterre's work 

Concerned about the increasingly large vehicles on our roads, Équiterre launched a vast research project on the subject.

From 2019 to 2021, Équiterre coordinated the efforts of several specialized research groups, including the Mobility Chair of Polytechnique Montréal, the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en analyse des organisations (CIRANO), HEC Montréal and Horizon Advisors, and also conducted research on automobile advertising in Canada, in order to formulate a series of recommendations for the Canadian government.

With this research, we are creating awareness about the impacts of large vehicles, encouraging people to rethink their automotive needs, and mobilizing stakeholders through government advocacy and a petition calling for better regulation on automobile advertising.

Objectives

  1. Define light-duty trucks and identify their defining characteristics;
  2. Understand how the supply of light-duty trucks has evolved;
  3. Identify the historical, economic, political and social factors that explain this phenomenon;
  4. Identify the factors that motivate people to buy fuel-inefficient, oversized vehicles and their perceptions about them;
  5. Profile light-duty truck owners in Canada;
  6. Describe the advertising strategies and practices of the automobile industry (investments, messaging, etc.);
  7. Understand the regulatory framework for automobile advertising;
  8. Propose public policy solutions to reverse the trend;
  9. Assess the effectiveness of certain messages in discouraging people to buy light-duty trucks.

Our impact

Équiterre has encouraged public debate about large vehicles and is a key authority on the issue across Canada.

7 research reports totalling 784 pages


1,400 Canadians surveyed


83 newspaper/magazine interviews


36 radio mentions and interviews


9 television mentions and interviews


13,000 signatures on the petition for better regulation on automobile advertising in Canada


Project history

2021

November

Launch of “Reversing the Trend” ad campaign aimed at regulating automobile advertising in Canada


October 

Publication of summary report on study produced by Équiterre


May

Series of webinars in French | Part 2


August

Publication of reports: “Light-Duty Trucks: Definitions and How the Supply has Evolved” and “Light-Duty Trucks: Factors Contributing to the Transformation of the Light-Duty Vehicle Fleet” produced by the Mobility Chair of Polytechnique Montréal 


June

Publication of report: “Purchases of Light-Duty Trucks in Canada: An Analysis of Motivations” produced by CIRANO


May

Series of webinars in French | Part 2


April 

Series of webinars in French | Part 1


March 

Publication of report: “Limitless: Automobile Advertising in Canada” produced by Équiterre

Testimonials

« Vehicle size is an issue of significance for our collective well-being. We have to reclaim the space that has been increasingly lost to supersized vehicles and make sure that our cities serve humans and not vehicles. Now is the time to assure cleaner, safer, and more livable cities for us and our children »

Verena Gruber

HEC Montreal, marketing associate professor

Media coverage

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