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Ford invests in Ontario plant to meet customer demand

Keywords: Tags  Ford Motor Co., capital investment, Oakville, Ontario plant, Joe Hinrichs, Canadian Auto Workers Union, CAW, Corinna Petry

CHICAGO — Ford Motor Co. will invest Canadian $700 million ($680 million) to bring several new global models to its Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant as it moves to meet demand in North America and around the world.

"This investment is helping us find much-needed capacity for global products ... and it is positioning Oakville as one of the most competitive and important facilities in the Ford system," Joe Hinrichs, Ford president for the Americas, said Sept. 19.

The expansion will increase Ford’s sourcing of Canadian-made auto parts by about C$200 million ($194.3 million) to an annual total of nearly C$4 billion ($3.9 billion).

The move to global manufacturing at the Oakville plant will enable Ford to shift production based on consumer demand more quickly and efficiently. "If consumers suddenly shift their buying habits, we can seamlessly change our production mix without having to idle a plant," Hinrichs said.

Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford now uses nine global platforms to build about 85 percent of its vehicles. As part of the investment, Ford will boost its sustainability and fuel-efficiency research and development work in Ontario, including supporting studies in vehicle lightweighting, reducing stationary emissions from industrial facilities, and advanced-engine development at its Windsor powertrain research facilities.

Work on the transformation at Oakville, which builds the Ford Edge, Ford Flex, Lincoln MKX and Lincoln MKT models, is already under way and should be completed by fall 2014.

A Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union official told AMM recently he was not alarmed by the amount of investment North American automakers had announced for the United States and Mexico over the prior 16 months (, July 5), and he anticipated further investment in Ford’s Oakville plant.

"Investments operate in cycles," said Ken Lewenza, now retired as CAW president.

Automakers have realized higher capacity utilization and productivity rates at their Canadian operations, offsetting perceived disadvantages such as high wages and a strong Canadian dollar, Lewenza said, adding that CAW members provided that high quality and productivity so "Canada is a good place to invest."

The CAW and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada merged Aug. 31 into a single organization called Unifor.

"The benefits of this investment are enormous for the province and for the country," Unifor national president Jerry Dias said in a statement.

Ford will maintain 2,800 jobs as a result of its capital project. "Our members at Ford have worked hard to ensure that this facility is a profitable location to invest and build automobiles well into the future."

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