A series of electric-vehicle and battery supply-chain investments in Canada and the United States this spring have shifted North America’s automotive axis a bit farther north, industry insiders say. But despite few wins in Mexico’s column so far — zero of 10 large-scale battery plants — it is too early in the EV transition to discount the role that country could play in the segment over the long term.
“In this first generation of mass-market EV production, I think [automakers] realize that they have no choice but to get it right,” said Angelo DiCaro, director of research at Unifor, which represents about 41,000 workers at auto assembly and parts plants in Canada.
With EV commitments this spring in Ontario — notably those at General Motors’ CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll and Stellantis plants in Brampton and Windsor — automakers recognized the part that highly skilled workers play in a smooth shift to EVs, DiCaro said.
“What they don’t need is a bunch of lemons pushing people away from that market and making this transition much more difficult,” he said.
Tapping long-established internal-combustion-engine vehicle hubs in both Canada and the United States for the new investments lets automakers draw from familiar labour pools to ensure they have the right mix of talent for big new projects, said Michael Robinet, executive director of Michigan-based S&P Global Mobility.
Frank Voss, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, agreed.
“[In] Ontario and Canada, we have talented people. I think that’s the No. 1 aspect that we bring to this revitalized industry. And we’ve demonstrated our ability over a long period of time, first and foremost, an excellent workforce [and] we have a technology leadership in Ontario.”
Windsor, with its deep automotive roots, was one such hub. In March, LG Energy Solution and Stellantis announced plans to build a $5-billion battery-cell plant in the city.