Porsche unveiling good for island economy, say business leaders


WATCH: The unveiling of the new Porsche Panamera marks the first time a new vehicle has been launched on Vancouver Island. Business leaders say it will benefit the local economy, but not everyone agrees. Calvin To has more. 

Porsche is unveiling its new Panamera at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit this week and next.

It’s the first time an event of this kind has taken place on Vancouver Island.

The company says it scouted the venue and found the island to be an ideal backdrop to present the Panamera to the world.

“[Vancouver Island] looks a little like Norway if you see the water and the surroundings. It has a very North American style, as well, and you have a lot of landscape,” said Anja Wassertheurer, Porsche’s director of product and technical communications. “That is not so usual around in Europe.”

The unveiling is bringing in more than 300 automotive journalists from around the world.

Business leaders say it will benefit the local economy by giving a boost to tourism on the island.

“They’re going to be seeing the beautiful wineries and the agri-tourism and the other facilities that we have, and they’re going to want to spend some time and… see them,” said Julie Scurr, president of the Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce.

But not everyone is impressed. A group of residents say GAIN Dealer Group, which owns the circuit, has ignored concerns from the community about noise levels. The protesters say the facility’s overall economic benefits are not in the best interests of the region.

“The members that take up most of the time here don’t live here, they bring very little to the valley, and most of the suppliers of food and services come from outside the valley. This is not a tourist destination except for people who can afford $500, $800 experience at the track,” said Isabel Rimmer, president of the Sahtlam Community Association.

GAIN Dealer Group, though, says it has always worked with the community and will continue to do so.

“To be honest, we have learned so much about noise and sound and everything else. I don’t think there’s anybody on this island that knows right now more than us. And we will definitely make use of that knowledge so that everybody’s happy in the future,” said Peter Trzewik, GAIN’s chief executive.

In the meantime, business leaders hope the net outcome of the event will be positive.

“We really hope that the three parties can come together and solve their differences because we see that there’s lots of benefit to having the track here,” Scurr said. “But we also recognize that it doesn’t come without some compromise.”

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