Magna International Inc., committed Feb. 15 to investing $470 million to open a new battery enclosures plant in Brampton, Ont., as well as expand five of its other auto parts manufacturing facilities spread throughout southern Ontario.
The spending will create more than 1,000 new jobs across the six sites, while allowing Magna to keep up with strong customer demand across several new and existing product lines, said Eric Wilds, the company’s chief sales and marketing officer.
“Magna’s roots in Ontario run deep, and we are excited about opening a new facility dedicated to a strategic electrification product,” he said in a release.
The new battery enclosures plant in the city northwest of Toronto will cover nearly 500,000 square-feet (45,000 square-metres) and employ 560 staff once ramped up to full capacity. It will build lightweight aluminum battery enclosures for the Ford F-150 Lightning, as well as future electric models planned for the U.S. automaker’s Oakville Assembly Complex.
John O’Hara, president of Magna’s body and chassis division Cosma, told Automotive News Canada the new Brampton plant will supply enclosures for the “third tranche” of the F-150 Lightning program over a roughly two-year period. A Magna plant in St. Thomas, outside London, Ont. is already building the component for the first two stages of the program, he added.
The Aurora, Ont.-based supplier announced it would build the enclosures for the new electrified Ford pickup in late 2021. A vital component in all battery-electric vehicles, the housings protect high-voltage batteries, electrical components and sensors from the elements.
Magna’s new Brampton plant will then shift its focus to Oakville.
O’Hara said the site will “ramp up” battery enclosure production for the Ford Explorer and Aviator programs destined for the assembly plant southwest of Toronto in 2024.
Ford has not officially confirmed the two models for the plant, but in 2020 it pledged to spend $1.8 billion in Oakville to begin building unnamed battery-electric vehicles starting in 2024.
In November, industry analyst Sam Fiorani said his forecast has fully electric versions of the Explorer and Aviator booked for Oakville. The vice-president of global vehicle forecasting at U.S.-based AutoForecast Solutions, said he expects production of the two SUVs will start in Oakville in 2024 following a retooling project.
Along with the F-150 Lightning, Magna has won battery enclosure supply contracts for the Chevrolet Silverado EV and GMC Hummer EV. Enclosures for those models will be built at another new Magna facility in St. Clair, Mich., about 50 miles (80 kilometres) north of Detroit.
The company’s official list of battery enclosure contract wins ends there, but O’Hara said there are more “in the pipeline.”
Magna’s spending on the new Brampton plant accounts for $265 million of the nearly half-billion-dollar investment, according to the Ontario ministry of economic development, job creation and trade. The facility is scheduled to begin producing battery enclosures in the second quarter of this year.
'ONTARIO BACK ON THE MAP'
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the spending by the homegrown auto parts giant is “another tremendous show of confidence” in the province’s auto sector.
“Together, with our industry partners, we’re putting Ontario back on the map as we build up Ontario’s electric vehicle supply chain from mining to manufacturing,” he said in a release.
Ontario contributed $23.6 million to the six-plant capital spending program.
In addition to the investment in Brampton, Magna will add new capabilities to plants in Belleville, Guelph, Newmarket, Penetanguishene and Windsor.
The largest of these projects will take place in Guelph, where Magna is planning a 120,000-square-foot (11,000 square-metre) expansion to an existing exteriors plant. The work will add e-coat, molding and welding capacity, while creating 175 new jobs. As with in Brampton, production is expected to start in the second quarter of this year.
Magna operates 49 manufacturing plants in Canada, employing more than 20,000 workers. It ranks No. 4 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers.