Dave Waddell, Windsor Star
January 24, 2020

The Windsor region and the auto cluster knitted together by the 401 in Southwestern Ontario will be key in the building of the Arrow concept car planned by the group representing auto parts makers in Canada.

The Auto Parts Manufacturers’ Association announced the project to build an all-Canadian, zero-emissions concept vehicle by 2022 two weeks ago and since then APMA President Flavio Volpe said he’s been inundated by offers of industry help.

“Parts and systems suppliers, universities, colleges and six OEMs have offered help,” Volpe said. “We have an offer from a law firm, one of the biggest ones, to work pro bono on the project.”

Volpe said the Arrow Project — a nod to the Avro Arrow jet plane developed by Canadians in the 1950s but scrapped before full production — will feature the best products, technology and innovation firms have to offer without concern for the usual cost restraints of the normal OEM bidding process. The vehicle is meant to be an advertisement for Canadian industry.

‘You could build this entire project in Windsor alone’

The OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) offering help include manufacturers currently building in Ontario, but also those without Canadian plants. A European sports car manufacturer has also offered help.

Volpe said it’s too early to confirm the names of those expressing interest, but he expects those firms represented on APMA’s board of directors to be likely participants.

They include such traditional industry giants as Linamar, Magna International, Siemens, The Woodbridge Group and AGS Automotive Systems, but also cutting-edge technology companies Canvass Analytics (Hamilton), Sciemetric Instruments (Kanata) and Exco Technologies (Toronto).

Among the local firms are Windsor Mold Group, Narmco Group, Laval Tool, the Windsor-based Canadian Association of Mold Makers, Anchor Danly, London’s Sle-Co Manufacturing and Stratford’s F&P Manufacturing.

Volpe said he’s already had discussions about using Windsor’s Virtual Reality Cave in the design and contacted WEtech Alliance, the chamber of commerce, WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, Canadian Association of Mold Makers and the University of Windsor to access the area’s expertise.

“A lot of the university’s Auto21 work and (Centre for Automotive Research and Education director) Peter Frise will be a big part of this,” Volpe said.

The next step in launching the project will be announcing next month the process for the designs to be done by universities and colleges.

Automate Canada chair Shelley Fellows feels the project is the type of “audacious outside-the-box thinking” that will serve as a real morale boost to the automotive industry in this country.

“I understand they already have the suppliers on board and they’re willing to fund it,” Fellows said. “I think that says a lot about the confidence in the project.”

Fellows said she expects many local firms will jump all over the opportunity to get involved.

“The area has a lot of special skill-set companies that can add something to the project,” said Fellows, who plans to talk to Volpe about how local companies can get involved.

In particular, Fellows sees opportunities for automation firms involved in data, analysis, vision systems, 3-D printing and additive manufacturing that can offer rapid prototype development.

“Being involved offers the ability test unusual technologies or put in technology that isn’t in production vehicles yet,” Fellows said. “You’ll have a concept car to show it could be production ready. It gives local companies the opportunity to catch the eyes of the global automotive industry.”

A panel of judges composed of APMA members and industry experts will select the best proposals to incorporate into the vehicle.

“The one thing that’s unique about southwestern Ontario is it has everything — the automotive cluster, mould making, tool and die, automation and an IT cluster,” Volpe said.

“You couldn’t do this project in Mexico or even the southeastern U.S. because they don’t have all those components.

“You could build this entire project in Windsor alone.”

The $1.5- to $2-million project isn’t relying on any government funding.

Once it’s completed, the Arrow will be taken out on the 2022 car show circuit where many of the industry’s movers and shakers network.

“Success means firstly did we get the car built,” Volpe said.

“The other part is did the platform we assembled get us in the door with automakers and IT firms to get meetings for our suppliers and result in new business.”

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