Auto assembly in Canada has been in a tenuous state of late, as a combination of labour and energy costs and a Canadian dollar at near par with the U.S. greenback have made it one of the world's more expensive places to build cars.
Add in heavily-subsidized competition, particularly from southern U.S. states and Mexico, where labour costs are much lower, and it's been a challenge to maintain the status quo, let alone attract new business.
It came as especially good news, then, that Ford is making a $700-million investment in its Oakville Assembly facility to make it one of the most competitive and advanced global manufacturing plants in Canada.
Just as importantly, that investment is said to secure 2,800 jobs at the Ontario plant. That number includes about 400 workers who were recalled last fall after being laid off as a result of Ford plant closures in St. Thomas and Windsor, Ontario.
Speaking at a ceremony announcing the investment today, Ford's president of The Americas, Joe Hinrichs, said it will bring several new global models to the plant, helping to meet surging vehicle demand in North America and around the world.
Ford has now invested more than C$2 billion in Canada in less than a decade and as a consequence of this latest capital investment, Hinrichs said, the company's spending on Canadian-made auto parts will also increase by approximately $200 million, to a total of nearly $4 billion annually.
"If consumers suddenly shift their buying habits, we can seamlessly change our production mix without having to idle a plant," said Hinrichs.
"Ford’s investment demonstrates Canada can be competitive in the global market through strategic partnerships," said Dianne Craig, president and CEO, Ford of Canada. "Working closely with government and labour, we have secured a bright future for our employees at Oakville Assembly."
As part of the investment, Ford will also increase its sustainability and fuel-efficiency research and development capacity in Ontario, including supporting studies in vehicle light-weighting, the reduction of stationary emissions from industrial facilities, and research into advanced engine development at Ford’s powertrain research facilities in Windsor.
Work on the transformation of Oakville Assembly is already under way and is expected to be completed by fall 2014 (Just in time for the next-generation Edge and MKX?).