During his address to a recent industry gathering in Windsor, Ont., Rick Rajaie, Foxconn’s vice-president of North American operations, made a point of highlighting his dual citizenship.
“I’m a proud Canadian-American citizen,” Rajaie told about 300 attendees of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association’s (APMA) annual conference Oct. 19. Although his current employer is headquartered in Taiwan and known more for assembling iPhones than cars, the engineering executive mentioned his lengthy experience in Ontario’s automotive industry, credentials seemingly aimed at forging a connection with his supplier-based audience.
“Today, I have a real agenda and a hidden agenda,” he said. The “real agenda” focused on a slide presentation of Foxconn’s development into an international electronics giant and recent foray into automotive. Rajaie joined Foxconn about 17 months ago and currently steers the company’s electric vehicle business in the United States, which includes a contract manufacturing plant in Ohio, building EVs for Fisker Inc., and Lordstown Motors. It also plans to manufacture electric tractors and battery packs for California-based Monarch Tractors.
Foxconn, said Rajaie, was drawn to the Ohio plant’s “proximity to Michigan and Ontario.”
And it has aggressive growth plans on this continent, he said. Hence, his “hidden agenda.” Foxconn is seeking partnerships with Ontario’s rich supply chain, he said. It’s an invitation parts makers seeking a foothold in the emerging EV market should seriously consider, said Joe McCabe, CEO of AutoForecast Solutions, a U.S.-based industry forecaster and consultancy.
Foxconn is among a growing number of new players looking to plant a flag in North America’s EV market, said McCabe, also a speaker at the APMA conference.
The list includes: China’s GAC, Geely, Chery, SAIC Motor and BYD Auto; Vietnam’s VinFast; Amazon’s Zoox, Inc.; California’s Faraday Future, Rivian and Lucid.
Suppliers need to look beyond traditional car companies, such as Honda, Volkswagen and the Detroit Three, and begin courting companies “that want a position in North America,” said McCabe.
Governments in Canada and the United States, he noted, are “pushing for more nontraditional [automakers]. It will be a very profitable course.”
BYD, which is partially financed by U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett, is “on the top of our list of potential China-based carmakers to launch EVs in North America,” said McCabe.
Its global expansion has focused on Europe, but it’s laying the groundwork for North America, and it currently produces electric buses in California, he said.
Foxconn’s Rajaie wrapped up his presentation with a pitch to his audience.
“I want you guys to reach out to me,” he said. “We have a ton of opportunities.”