Dave Waddell, Windsor Star
August 28, 2020

The strong rebound in vehicle sales, as well as automakers moving ahead again with planned programs, make Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association president Flavio Volpe cautiously optimistic about ongoing Detroit 3 contract talks and the industry’s future.

Talks will be challenging, but Volpe feels Unifor’s priority goal of new product is more achievable than saving GM’s Oshawa plant and fighting a two-tiered wage system that dominated the past two negotiations.

“I don’t see as much controversy this time around,” Volpe said. “I think concerns about Ford in Oakville are premature.

“Ford has lots of interesting product in its pipeline. Oakville is a robust piece of it. It’s hard for me to see Oakville being stranded.”

Volpe is equally confident about the future of FCA’s Windsor assembly and Brampton production plants.

“Windsor is a special investment for FCA,” Volpe said. “It’s been there since the 1920s and it’s produced a segment leader for 35 years.

“It also ranks as one of its most efficient and best quality plants every year.

“It has more flexibility than other plants and there is no sister plant. I don’t have any worry about the future of the Windsor plant.”

Volpe expects FCA to find a compatible vehicle for the Pacifica in Windsor, likely a three-row multi-person vehicle/crossover. Once the merger between France’s PSA Group and Fiat/FCA is finalized, he added, new opportunities could also arise from the European market.

He also expects a new version in Brampton in the near future of the Charger and Challenger, which is outselling Ford’s Mustang in the sports class.

Securing new product for Ontario plants isn’t the only source of opportunity for the province’s automotive supply chain.

The effect of the new USMCA trade agreement, said Volpe, will also be increasingly felt over the next three to eight years.

“The domestic parts content rules will result in $6- to $8-billion more in business for our suppliers,” he said. “That’s the equivalent of adding two OEM (original equipment manufacturer) plants.

“That’s the biggest increase in business resulting from a trade agreement in 50 years.”

Volpe added the auto industry’s move towards Industry 4.0 provides big opportunities for Ontario’s rapidly growing automation and technology sectors.

“When it comes to technology and automation, we’ve tended to focus on the end product of the industry,” Volpe said. “I think the future is to look at the manufacturing process, the plant itself.”

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