With Stellantis’ Brampton Assembly Plant facing an uncertain future, the Ontario government is prepared to offer the automaker financial assistance to keep the plant running, but will push back on any attempt to transform the valuable industrial site into a residential development.
Premier Doug Ford said he would see the property northwest of Toronto kept vacant before he sees it turned into housing.
“It’s just not going to happen. I don’t care if we keep it as a cow pasture,” Ford told Automotive News Canada at the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) annual conference in Vaughan, Ont. Tuesday.
Ford said he was blindsided by recent reports the plant will be without a product after current runs of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger end in the third quarter of 2023. In a discussion with Stellantis about a month ago, he said the automaker raised no concerns about the future of the Brampton plant.
“I’m getting mixed messages,” Ford said. “I just want someone to be honest. If you need help, tell us, we’ll be there to support you. They’ve got to give me the straight goods here.”
The premier said he has already told the automaker that he has ruled out any plans to turn the property into a residential development.
“I made it very clear to Chrysler and Stellantis, if they think they’re going to sell that property into residential, it’s not going to happen. So, I pulled that right off the table. You know they have dreams of grandeur and that they’re going to make a fortune, well, it’s just not going to happen.
Meantime, Joe McCabe, CEO of AutoForecast Solutions (AFS), warned parts suppliers attending the 69th annual APMA conference to be prepared for the impending shift at the Brampton Assembly Plant. The forecaster said the next-generation Charger and Challenger are slated to be built at the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois, though the automaker has given no official word.
Company spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said Stellantis has product committed to the Brampton plant through the end of 2023, but the company has “not made any future product announcements.” She added the automaker considers “many factors” to improve its global competitiveness and set it up for growth when allocating product.
“While we won't comment on rumor or speculation about the future of any of our facilities, we can say that Stellantis is committed to bringing consumers an electrified future, investing $35 billion through 2025 on electrification and software,” Gosselin said in an email to Automotive News Canada.
McCabe said with the new versions of the muscle cars set to be built on an electrified platform, few options are available to grant the Brampton plant a “stay of execution.” One, he acknowledged, would be a billion-dollar investment, but added AFS views that outcome as unlikely.
“So, pay attention with Brampton. It’s going to happen — whether it becomes condos or whether it becomes a brand new manufacturer that wants to come in.”
But neither Ford nor Unifor, which represents the plant’s nearly 3,000 hourly workers, are walking away from the roughly three million square-foot (280,000 square-metre) facility yet.
Union representatives assured members late last month Stellantis had yet to finalized its product allocation decisions. Any announcement is unlikely until the fate of the proposed electric vehicle tax incentive in the United States has been determined, they added.
Unifor spokesman Scott Doherty said the automaker has previously made commitments about upcoming investments in Brampton to the union but “everything is in play right now.”
“There’s still concern for that facility,” said Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “It’s a great facility and I think Stellantis wants to maintain it, but we didn’t think GM would close Oshawa either and they did, so I guess we have to look at it from that perspective.”
Ford said he is committed to seeing the automaker remain in Brampton and “if we have to,” working with the federal government on funding to keep the assembly plant running.