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Parts makers plan all-Canadian zero-emissions concept vehicle

Greg Layson, Automotive News Canada
January 8, 2020

Canadian auto suppliers aim to build and unveil by 2022 a zero-emissions concept car made entirely of parts and software sourced at home.

Project Arrow is intended to highlight Canadian auto ingenuity, engineering, design and manufacturing.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, said the vehicle will “showcase the absolute very best in [Canadian] technology.”

Volpe said the name is a nod to the iconic Canada-made Avro Arrow supersonic jet of the 1950s. He described the APMA’s project as “a beacon,” designed to draw customers to Canada’s auto industry.

Volpe said there are two reasons for the timing of the project.

First, he said the current state of the Canadian auto industry demands something like this. And second, the federal Liberal government’s call to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

“There’s a threat of a malaise setting in on the Canadian auto sector,” Volpe said.

Canada’s auto assembly footprint is shrinking. General Motors in December ceased production at its Oshawa, Ont., plant. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in March plans to eliminate one of three shifts at its minivan plant in Windsor, Ont. And Ford has recently cut jobs at its Oakville, Ont., factory.

On the retail side, annual sales of new vehicles fell for the second consecutive year.

“People hear bad news but what’s missing in the narrative is that we have the most advanced supplier technology in the world,” Volpe said. “We are as leading-edge as the Germans and the Japanese, Americans and Koreans and we think as creatively as the Chinese.

“A country like Canada, that has been in the auto industry for 110 years, can demonstrate that we can do an exercise like this to flex its muscles.”

Volpe was a guest of the government during the Throne Speech back in December. He said he left inspired.

“I listened to the prime minister’s call to action,” Volpe said. “We came back to the office and we had a strategy session. Somebody said ‘why don’t we make our own car?’ and it evolved from there.”

Money is no object on this project. There are no budget constraints. And there are no government subsidies. Suppliers will foot the bill. Volpe estimates it costs between $1.5 million and $2 million to build a concept car.

The vehicle will not be intended for the general public — Volpe called it a rolling commercial demonstration vehicle — but it will adhere to Canadian road safety standards.

The project will consist of three stages: design, a virtual concept and construction.

Students at Canadian universities and colleges will be encouraged to submit design ideas for the car this summer. Next, suppliers will bid on their parts of the project in the fall. A “virtual concept” will be unveiled sometime in 2021. And finally, the vehicle will be introduced and “make the rounds on the auto show circuit” in 2022.

Volpe wouldn’t say which suppliers would participate but said there are plenty already interested.

“It’s a big tent,” he said.

Volpe said companies are already investing in the types of technology the vehicle will use; they just need a way to showcase their product and expertise.

“If we do this right — and we will — you’ll have a concept vehicle that allows everyone who participated on it to demonstrate to current and new carmaker customers their leadership in their field.”

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