OAKVILLE, ONT. — Ford Motor Co.’s sole Canadian assembly plant will build just a single model by 2022, down from four this year, according to a top automotive forecasting company.
Joe McCabe, the CEO of AutoForecast Solutions LLC, said he forecasts that Lincoln Nautilus crossover assembly would move from Oakville to China in 2022, following the end of Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT production at the suburban Toronto plant this year.
With no product readily apparent to replace Nautilus production, that could put more jobs at risk in Oakville, which will have shed about 650 jobs, or roughly 14 per cent of its workforce, by early 2020 to adjust to the end of Flex and MKT production and a declining new-vehicle market.
“Without a replacement product to backfill, we don’t see an uptick in Edge that’s going to [replace] any of the lost volume,” McCabe said.
According to McCabe, Ford would build about 160,000 vehicles in 2023 should Nautilus production move overseas, well short of the 260,000 vehicles the plant could build at full capacity. Oakville workers assembled 237,446 crossovers in 2018, according to the Automotive News Data Center in Detroit.
The job cuts and falling production figures are set to play a major role in Ford’s 2020 labour negotiations with Unifor, which represents the 4,600 or so workers at the plant. Unifor President Jerry Dias said the union would be seeking clarity from Ford about its plans for the plant ahead of 2020 contract talks so that the two sides can figure out how to “put people back to work” at Oakville.
“Ultimately, it’s all about capacity,” Dias said. “We have excess capacity at the plant, so the question is, what are they going to do about that?”
In an October interview with Automotive News Canada, Ford of Canada CEO Dean Stoneley said the Oakville plant is “a real success” for the company and said it would remain a “vital part” of the Michigan automaker’s manufacturing footprint. (Note: The interview took place before Ford confirmed the end of Flex and MKT production later that month.)
“Like any plant, we take the long view,” Stoneley said. “When we look at a plant, we’re looking at what we’re building today and looking at what the next generation of products are. We’re always taking the long view on things.”
Kristin Dziczek, vice-president of industry, labour and economics at the Center for Automotive Research, said product options for Oakville during 2020 talks would likely come down to what shakes out in the United States.