“While nothing is certain, and the glow of this particular investment is still strong, I am personally more confident in the future of the automotive industry in Ontario and Canada than ever before,” said Brendan Sweeney, managing director of the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing.
“These types of investments tend to go to central geographic locations within a company’s production network to supply multiple facilities. They tend not to go on the edge of the production network.”
Stellantis would not comment on the number of vehicles the plant will build batteries for, saying battery packs can vary greatly in size. Based on the plant's 45 GWh battery cell capacity, however, once running at full tilt, it could produce cells for 450,000 electric vehicles with 100 KWh batteries annually. It will supply Stellantis assembly sites in North America, the automaker said, without identifying any particular plants.
According to Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, Brampton is very likely to be on the list.
"You’re not going to invest $5 billion in a battery plant to decide to make cars someplace else than Windsor or Brampton.”
At the Windsor Assembly Plant, only a few kilometres from the planned battery plant, Stellantis is already making use of lithium-ion batteries in its Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.
FEW BRAMPTON DETAILS
To supplement minivan volumes and generate further demand for batteries at the plant, Sam Fiorani, vice-president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions (AFS), said the automaker is expected to add a new vehicle in 2024 that will have internal combustion, hybrid and full electric variants.
Stellantis has not shared details about its future product plans for Windsor, but did commit to further investment in the plant in its most recent contract negotiations with Unifor, which represents hourly workers at the site.
In Brampton, the automaker has also remained mum on future product plants. Unlike in Windsor, however, it has not pledged new product to its unionized workforce, leading AFS to repeatedly warn the plant could be under threat if no new products are secured soon.
“We have no new plans, no new products for that plant and no expectations for what the plant will do next,” Fiorani said.
Built by American Motors Corp. in 1986 and acquired by Chrysler shortly after, the Brampton plant, located just outside Toronto, currently produces the Dodge Challenger and Charger, as well as the Chrysler 300.
Stellantis, has confirmed the muscle car programs are committed to Brampton through 2023 but not beyond.
As the company unveiled the new battery plant in Windsor March 23, Mark Stewart, COO for Stellantis North America was not willing to discuss the company’s plans for Brampton.
“We're not prepared to discuss either of our assembly plants today. We want to celebrate the battery plant, and we'll be having those discussions here in the coming weeks and months,” he told Automotive News Canada.
BATTERY PLANT 'CRITICAL'
Unifor, which represents approximately 2,800 hourly workers at the Brampton plant and tens of thousands of others across Canada’s auto sector, sees the battery plant as a positive development for both the industry and the assembly plant in Brampton.
Shane Wark, the union’s lead on the automotive file and assistant to the national president, said Stellantis’ battery plans are a “critical” step in the electrification of Canada’s auto sector. It also improves the outlook for Brampton, he added.
“It enhances the argument and the business case to put more product into the Brampton Assembly Plant,” Wark said pointing to the relatively short distance — about 350 kilometres — separating the two plants.
Given the recent uncertainty around the plant, union officials continue to “take every opportunity” to raise the topic with top company brass, Wark said, adding he believes the automaker is “committed to that facility.”
Unifor is looking to secure a long-term future for the plant “sooner rather than later,” Wark said, although the timeline is largely out of the union’s hands.
“Those decisions are going to come from Stellantis, not from Unifor about when or what products they’re going to allocate.”
—With files from Grace Macaluso