The Canadian auto industry’s aggressive pursuit of Chinese investment continued at the Shanghai auto show April 20 with a keynote address before a high-profile audience.
Canadian Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association President Flavio Volpe delivered a 30-minute speech touting Canada’s auto sector and what it offers.
Volpe delivered his address on the main stage of the International Auto Key Tech Forum, which is part of the show.
He had a simple message: “Canadians are ready to buy your cars. Canadians are ready to supply your cars. Canadians are ready to build your cars.”
“We’re talking about Canada’s competitive offering,” Volpe said in a telephone interview from China. “We secured a very strategic 30 minutes, on the opening morning, in front of Chinese auto leadership from the OEMs and parts sector and the most important government representatives.”
He also secured meetings with three of China’s biggest automakers, though he declined to name them.
A chance to shine
“Frankly, I think it’s an unprecedented opportunity to feature Canadian auto innovation to leaders of the world’s biggest auto play at the world’s largest show,” he said.
The Shanghai show covers nearly 420,000 square metres (4.5 million square feet), equal to the size of the Detroit and Frankfurt auto shows combined.
Staff from Global Affairs Canada joined Volpe in Shanghai. The government agency didn’t respond to calls and emails from Automotive News Canada.
“We’re here to tell them how fertile the Canadian market is for the launch of Chinese product and how technologically advanced and cost competitive the Canadian sector is for their next step,” Volpe said. “It’s a message that’s been very well received.”
Volpe predicts that North America sales under Chinese brands will start within “the next couple of years.”
China export ready
He said when looking at features, design and materials in Chinese vehicles on display in Shanghai it is “almost immediately apparent these cars are ready for serious export.”
“You can’t tell whether you’re in Shanghai, Detroit or Frankfurt. These products have arrived, they are world class,” he said.
Volpe said research and development investments will follow soon after sales start and then “real Chinese production in North America” will happen next.
“We know that Chinese automakers are ready for North American market entry and we know with market entry comes planning for how you supply those customers,” Volpe said.
Volpe said Chinese auto execs and government officials “are most interested in the overlay of the Canadian automotive geography and the Canadian IT geography.”
Ontario is the second largest IT cluster in North America, behind only Silicon Valley. Ford and General Motors have both announced huge investments in software development and R&D in Ontario in the last year.
Chinese automakers are specifically looking for in-car technology, driveline technology and connectivity, Volpe said.
“We’ve got an interesting story to tell from the Canadian perspective and they’re listening,” Volpe said. “We’re shifting some perspectives in a way that could only be done face to face.”