Unifor has made it abundantly clear that it wants at least one new product to be built alongside the minivans at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Windsor, Ont., assembly plant.
“I promise you this~I AM NOT bringing back a contract unless we have NEW product allocations for Windsor!!!,” Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy, who is part of the union’s bargaining team, posted on the local’s Facebook page Tuesday. “We fight until we WIN!”
So, as bargaining between the union and FCA is set to kick off on Thursday, what could make sense for Windsor? According to Sam Fiorani, vice-president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions LLC, a crossover based on the FCA minivan could be in the cards.
“Potentially, a crossover based on the minivan platform would be a good idea, especially because in the timeframe of this contract, the [Dodge] Durango goes away,” Fiorani told me. “To fill the void of the missing Durango, that would make sense.”
Production of the Durango SUV, built at an FCA plant in Detroit, is expected to continue until 2023, and a new Dodge crossover could make its debut by 2024, according to Automotive News’ Future Product Pipeline. With the cancellation of the Dodge Journey, that leaves the Dodge brand with only one utility vehicle in the Durango. And FCA remains light on ever-popular crossovers when compared with many of its rivals. Not one crossover or utility vehicle exists under the Chrysler badge.
According to the Automotive News Data Center, FCA built 84,254 Durangos in 2019. Should FCA decide to build a new crossover alongside the Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager minivans, Unifor hopes that production levels would be high enough to bring back the plant’s third shift, which was cut earlier this year amid declining sales in the minivan segment.
Fiorani said FCA’s minivan platform should be flexible enough to allow for a crossover to be built on it.
“They’ve learned quite a bit since the Pacifica came out almost 15 years ago about the crossover market and could easily develop a three row crossover on the new Pacifica platform,” he said.
Still, it won’t necessarily be easy for Unifor to get the product it wants, as Unifor President Jerry Dias has acknowledged. FCA’s pending merger with French automaker PSA Group looms, and it remains unclear what the combined company’s North American lineup and production footprint will look like, said Kristin Dziczek, vice-president of industry, labour and economics at the Center for Automotive Research.
“I think a lot of future product at Chrysler hinges on the merger,” she said.
We could know more about FCA’s plans for Windsor, as well as its Brampton, Ont., assembly plant, in the coming days. Unifor and FCA will kick off bargaining in Toronto on Thursday, and a strike deadline is expected to be set by then.
Unifor will seek to pattern an eventual contract with FCA off of the one with Ford that was ratified by members on Monday. The deal included a range of raises and bonuses and a reduction in the wage grow-in period for new hires, as well as a promise from ford to invest nearly $2 billion in its Canadian facilities in the coming years.