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Tesla to build biggest North America service centre in Vancouver

Tesla’s plan is for a 120,000-sq.-ft. flagship centre for vehicle servicing, new vehicle preparation, delivery operations, and a showroom.
Illustration of the Tesla service centre planned for East Vancouver. SUBMITTED

VANCOUVER — With a third of all its cars on the roads in B.C. located in Vancouver, the North Shore and Burnaby, it makes sense that Tesla would want to build a substantial service centre in the middle of East Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood.

The EV manufacturer, with local developer Beedie Industrial, said on Monday it plans to begin construction on what Tesla claims will be its largest North American service centre at 950 Raymur Ave., site of the since-razed General Paint warehouse off Prior Street in East Vancouver.

Tesla’s plan is for a 120,000-sq.-ft. flagship centre for vehicle servicing, new vehicle preparation, delivery operations, and a showroom.

The company’s announcement didn’t note whether it will consolidate its existing Vancouver operations on 4th Avenue, Powell Street and Great Northern Way into the new centre, expected to open in 2026.

However, Tesla expects it will “better serve our Vancouver-area customers and further support electric vehicle adoption in the province,” according to Fereshteh Zeineddin, Tesla’s director of sales and service in Canada.

Although Tesla did not detail the number of technicians involved, Tesla owners will likely mark the news as “pretty significant,” according to Ron Burton, spokesperson for the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association.

“It’s been difficult for some people to get their Teslas serviced, and this increase is definitely going to help the Tesla community,” Burton said.

At the end of 2022, Tesla accounted for 51 per cent of all EVs on B.C. roads, according to ICBC statistics, totalling around 42,000 of 81,000 EVs registered with the provincial insurer.

Of those 42,000, 79 per cent — 32,493 — were registered in Metro Vancouver, with 13,788 in just Vancouver, Burnaby and the North Shore.

In July, Tesla announced plans to build another major service and delivery centre in Port Coquitlam, smaller at 60,000 sq. ft. of space, but with 650 parking spaces.

The idea is that the Port Coquitlam centre would be a hub for the delivery of Tesla EVs from U.S. and Shanghai factories, according to reporting in the Western Investor, although Port Coquitlam council was critical of the manufacturer’s plans that didn’t include a substantial increase in charging stations for the vehicles within the municipality.

“Tesla opening up a large service centre is going to be needed for sure,” said Scott Waddle, owner of the independent garage Precision Auto Service in Langley.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of car it is, the (manufacturer) dealer has never been able to service all the cars (they have produced) so the independent aftermarket will be required,” Waddle said.

“There’s a bigger landscape than just Tesla.”

Waddle has two specifically trained EV technicians who service all EV makes. The vehicles come from as far afield as Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, the Okanagan, and even Washington State.

“I’d say that even now we’re a little behind, because we have eight technicians, two of them that really specialize in EVs, and all it takes is for one tech to be off on vacation for a week that starts to build a backlog,” Waddle said.

B.C. has a shortage of mechanics in general, according to Mubasher Faruki, associate dean of automotive programs at the B.C. Institute of Technology’s school of transportation.

“With Tesla coming fairly new on the scene, I would only hazard a guess that they are in a similar if not worse situation than the other auto manufacturers,” Faruki said. The school says it has trained a total of 283 EV technicians.

BCIT has training programs aimed at EV repair, including Canada’s first Tesla-specific apprenticeship, which was a challenge for the institution because the red-seal auto technician trade qualification requires proficiency in internal-combustion-engine and EV repair.

The program, however, is in demand with other jurisdictions, including other Canadian provinces and countries such as Saudi Arabia making requests about licensing the training, Faruki said.

EV technicians generally will become more important as warranties on the growing volume of new EVs in the market begin to expire, creating opportunities for independent shops to service vehicles, Faruki said.