Ford invests in Oakville plant
TORONTO—Ford’s investment in the Oakville plant west of Toronto is creating hope among union members and industry watchers that more jobs may come to Canada as demand for cars rebounds to pre-recession levels.
The automaker announced yesterday it was putting $700 million in the plan with the help of government funds in a move it called a “win for everyone,” as well as a sign of the company’s dedication to Canadian manufacturing.
“Not only is this investment helping us to find much-needed capacity for global product and securing these great jobs, it’s also positioning Oakville as one of the more competitive and important manufacturing facilities in the Ford global manufacturing system,” he noted.
While the investment doesn’t create any new jobs, it will secure those of the 2,800 employees currently at the plant.
Anthony Faria, an automotive expert at the University of Windsor, said Ford’s level of investment means those jobs should remain safe for at least 10 years.
But he also noted that new product would have to come into the factory for new positions to be created since the vehicles currently built at Oakville aren’t big sellers.
Faria said he hopes Oakville will continue to build the next generation Ford Edge and the next generation of MKX for Lincoln, but noted both vehicles are built off the same platform as the Ford Fusion—a major global seller.
“About the only thing that outsells it for Ford is the F-Series pick-ups.”
The Oakville plant currently makes the Ford Edge, Ford Flex, Lincoln MKX, and Lincoln MKT.
Ford said several new models will be brought to the plant to meet demand in North America and elsewhere.
The auto industry was among the hardest-hit during the 2008 downturn. And while it has come back strongly, jobs have not kept pace.
On the assembly side, Faria estimated the industry still is 8,000 jobs below the peak before the recession while the auto parts sector is still down 20,000 as companies remain lean and cautious and further automate some work.
“So far, job creation has certainly lagged behind the regrowth of the North America auto industry,” Faria said.
Unifor, the new union created by the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union, called the investment a “giant boost” for the industry and praised the involvement of both the federal and provincial governments, which also had worked to prop up the industry when it was at its weakest.
“There’s a better way for us to manage the economy,” said Unifor national president Jerry Dias.
“When government, companies, and unions get in a room to decide what types of jobs we want, we come up with good solutions,” he noted.
“The fact that the government came forward today is great start.”