Two auto parts plant closures in Ingersoll, Ont., and hundreds of job losses at other suppliers of General Motors’ CAMI Assembly plant could be just the beginning as Canadian vehicle plants transition to building electrified products.
“This is a microcosm of the challenges that we are going to face moving ahead,” Angelo DiCaro, director of research at Unifor, said at Electric Mobility Canada’s recent EV2021VÉ virtual conference.
The retooling at CAMI to build BrightDrop electric vans, scheduled to begin in April 2022, is the culmination of a years-long effort by the union, which represents the Detroit Three in Canada, and other industry stakeholders to secure EV programs for Ontario’s assembly plants. By mid-decade, Ford Motor Co.’s Oakville Assembly Plant and Stellantis’ Windsor Assembly Plant are also poised to be building EVs or hybrids.
The shift will ensure that the province’s auto sector remains an integral part of the wider industry, advocates say. But the longevity will come at a short-term cost.
“The simple reality is there’s going to be a lot of job loss,” Unifor national President Jerry Dias told Automotive News Canada, pointing to supply chain fallout around CAMI.
‘NO WAY AROUND THIS’
The stark difference between the incoming BrightDrop vans and the Chevrolet Equinox crossovers currently rolling off the CAMI line in Ingersoll means there is “no way around this,” Dias said. Parts suppliers that build powertrain components — from timing belts to exhaust systems — are likely to be hardest hit, he said.
Butcher Engineering Enterprises Ltd., part of the Windsor-based Spencer Butcher Group of Cos., assembles front-end modules for CAMI, consisting of the transmission, engine, radiator and other key components. Without new business, Dias said, the plant will close next year, putting 350 union members out of work.
In a statement, Butcher Engineering said it continues to look for new business opportunities, but they have been tough to find.
“The situation we are in is unfortunate and also out of our control,” the company said.
Butcher Engineering plans to maintain an engineering presence in Ingersoll and pursue possible upcoming contracts but barring further developments will close and vacate its assembly plant when Equinox production ends next spring.