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Ford invests $700 million in Oakville plant, secures 2,800 jobs

Joe Hinrichs, the auto giant’s president for the Americas, said it’s a win-win for the firm and for Ontario.

  • Oakville Assembly

A $700-million investment by Ford will secure more than 2,800 jobs at the firm’s Oakville plant and give Premier Kathleen Wynne’s minority government some much-needed good economic news.

Ford Motor Company announced the cash infusion Thursday, which will increase its spending on Canadian-made auto parts by $200 million a year to a total of $4 billion annually.

Joe Hinrichs, the auto giant’s president for the Americas, said it’s a win-win for the firm and for Ontario.

“This investment is helping us find much needed capacity for global products and securing jobs and it is positioning Oakville as one of the most competitive and important facilities in the Ford system,” Hinrichs said in a statement.

“Global fuel-efficient products, built in a state-of-the-art facility, by a great workforce are a win for everyone today,” he said, adding Ford would bring several new “global” models to the plant.

Related: Video review of the Ford Fusion Titanium

Related: Any bets on whether Ford will bring this model to Oakville?

The Oakville Assembly facility, which employs 6,000 people, currently produces the Ford Edge, Ford Flex, Lincoln MKX and Lincoln MKT.   For competitive reasons, the automaker would not reveal what new vehicles it could be producing from the global platform when the plant’s retooling is finished next fall.

“Whether it’s a CUV or a car, we’ll see as we get closer to the launch,” said Ford Canada chief executive Dianne Craig, a Buffalo native.

Hinrichs said a move to global manufacturing at Oakville will enable Ford to shift production based on consumer demand very quickly.

 “If consumers suddenly shift their buying habits, we can seamlessly change our production mix without having to idle a plant,” he said, noting the company uses nine global platforms around the world to build about 85 per cent of its vehicles.

“Flexible manufacturing enables us to get vehicles to consumers faster than ever before. This is a great value proposition for everyone.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose Liberals have been big backers of the sector since her predecessor Dalton McGuinty was elected in 2003, was on hand at the plant later Thursday to tout the company for its commitment to the province.

“This isn’t a cost to the government, this is an investment in the future,” she said. “Advanced manufacturing is one of our strengths…it’s what we need to keep our economy growing and cooking.”

Since 2004, Ford has invested more than $2 billion in Ontario, including a previous $1 billion investment at Oakville Assembly to make it a flexible manufacturing plant. In 2010, Ford invested a $590 million in Windsor’s Essex engine plant.

With each automotive manufacturing job meaning a spinoff of 10 supporting jobs, the auto industry is hugely important to Ontario, which now produces more vehicles annually than Michigan.

While there were no new jobs announced for the 60-year-old plant, getting the global platform to make more Ford models for the world market holds out the prospect for more employment, retiring Canadian Auto Workers president Ken Lewenza said in an interview with the Toronto Star.

“The whole idea is to build more capacity because if you get more volume, you need more people,” he said.

“Without the global platform we would not be in the game at all. I told some people here today with 12 or 13 years’ seniority that this is their pension ticket.”

The plant now operates two assembly line shifts on weekdays, with the body and paint shops working three shifts.

With files from Rob Ferguson, Toronto Star

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