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Would Warren Buffett buy a plug-in right now?

Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha and world's third-richest man - Forbes says he's worth $72.7 billion (U.S.), so he can buy any car - has long counseled putting money into something at the moment when few want it. Is the time ripe to buy a plug-in ride of some sort?

Let's paint this picture, starting with oil prices. They are low, with crude hovering in the $50 (U.S.) range and likely to stay that way for quite some time.

"There's simply not a shortage (of oil) at all. There's a big glut, and that glut remains intact," Kyle Cooper, analyst at IAF Advisors in Houston, tells The Wall Street Journal.

The Kent Group/MJ Ervin and Associates note some volatility in pump prices these last few months, but the ups and down are mostly grounded in transportation and storage issues around crude oil, not supply. The Group's pump price survey shows a litre of regular in Toronto selling for $1.047 this week. Unless something dramatic happens, prices should stay thereabouts until fracking ends, a Middle East war erupts or OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) turns down its gushing taps.

Canadians are reacting to fuel prices as you would expect, buying vehicles that swill down more fuel than your typical econobox. Large pickup sales are up 9.1 per cent in the latest data from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. Sales of large vans are up 35 per cent, luxury vehicles up 20 per cent and large SUVs (sport-utility vehicles) up 18.3 per cent.

Sales of what many would argue are the "greenest" vehicles remain in the dumpster. Green Car Reports says 121 Canadians bought some sort of plug-in in February, the last month for which data are available.

In fairness, this total does not include sales of Tesla's Model S and several others who generally move 20 or less EVs a given month. Tesla sold 99 cars in January, still not a big number in a month when Canadians bought nearly 100,000 new vehicles.

In February, Chevrolet and Nissan led this small plug-in parade, each selling 38 Volts and Leafs. The Canadian market share for plug-ins: 0.11 per cent. Essentially no one wants an EV when fuel is cheap.

Which brings us back to Buffet. Buy something of value that no one else wants, correct? Just a tiny handful of Canadians want a full EV or even a hybrid, which means you'll find great deals.

Terrific ones, in fact, and not just because British Columbia just announced a return of up to $5,000 in taxpayer-funded incentives for qualifying new battery electric, fuel-cell electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. You'll get up to $6,000 off the sticker price for a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in B.C. – though there is only one proper fuel cell filling station in the province.

Ontario and Quebec also offer up to $8,500 and $8,000 in sales sweeteners, respectively. As of mid-February, the Ontario government says it handed out 2,986 EV rebates worth as much $25 million-plus in total. Taxpayers have so far given $25 million to plug-in buyers in Ontario.

On top of that, the car companies themselves are throwing money at the "green" market. Nissan has more than $5,000 in combined factory and dealer incentives in play on its Leaf, the world's most popular battery car. Add in the taxpayer money and you are at more than $13,500 in discounts on a $38,548 Leaf SL.

If it is a hybrid you want, you will find nearly $6,000 in combined incentives on a Hyundai Sonata hybrid and more than that on a Kia Optima hybrid. Ford's C-Max Energi plug-in: nearly $3,500 in incentives. The two hybrids aren't eligible for government assistance, but the C-Max Energi is. In Ontario, the incentive is $5,808.

It is hard to envision a time when sales sweeteners – factory and government – will be any richer than this. Now may be Buffet time to buy a plug-in or a hybrid.

Or you might want a 2015 Audi Q3, wearing more than $3,500 in combined discounts. And if it's just a regular old compact you fancy, Chevy has slapped on a $2,500 manufacturer incentive and it can be combined with some $500 in dealer money.

Deals of the Week consulted with, Car Help Canada,, and other sources on these offers. As usual, pricing information here is subject to change and dealer discounts vary, so consult your dealer for all the final details, including expiry dates for all offers.

The Globe and Mail

2015 Nissan Leaf SL

  • MSRP: $38,548
  • Freight, dealer prep, air conditioning tax: $2,125
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $1,419
  • Factory discount: $3,750 (manufacturer incentive)
  • Taxable subtotal: $35,504
  • Total price with 13 per cent HST: $40,119.52
  • Government incentive: $8,500 (Government of Ontario)
  • Final price: $31,619.52
  • Factory and dealer incentives cannot be combined with 1.9 per cent financing for 48 or 60 months, or a 3.49 per cent lease rate for 48 months.

2015 Ford C-Max SEL Energi

  • MSRP: $35,499
  • Freight, dealer prep, fees and air conditioning tax: $1,735
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $2,210
  • Factory discount: $1,250 (manufacturer incentive)
  • Taxable subtotal: $33,774
  • Total price with 13 per cent HST: $38,164.62
  • Government incentive: $5,808 (Government of Ontario)
  • Final price: $32,356.62
  • All incentives can be combined with 2.49 per cent financing for 48 or 60 months or a 1.49 per cent lease rate for 48 months.


2015 Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv Tiptronic

  • MSRP: $38,300
  • Freight, dealer prep, AC tax: $2,230
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $1,564
  • Factory discount: $1,250 (manufacturer incentive)
  • Factory discount: $750 (loyalty incentive)
  • Taxable subtotal: $36,966
  • Total price with 13 per cent HST: $41,771.58
  • All incentives can be combined with 3.9 per cent financing for 48 or 60 months, 4.4 per cent for 84 months or a 4.9 per cent lease rate for 48 months.


2015 Chevrolet Cruze 2LS

  • MSRP: $18,695
  • Freight, PDI, AC tax: $1,735
  • Dealer discount (estimated): $546
  • Factory discount: $2,500 (manufacturer incentive)
  • Taxable subtotal: $17,384
  • Total price with 13 per cent HST: $19,643.92
  • A $500 factory incentive and any dealer incentives can be combined with zero per cent financing for 48, 60 or 84 months, months, or a zero per cent lease rate for 48 months.

Pricing information source:


. Calculations based on Ontario customers. Please note that while the information above is accurate at the time of publication, incentives are given at the discretion of individual dealers, and may be changed or discontinued at any time. Where noted, "dealer discounts" are negotiated with the customer on a case-by-case basis. Unhaggle Savings are actual discounts received by Unhaggle customers.

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