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Dave Battagello, Windsor Star, April 23, 2019
The decision spells good news locally given how the Windsor Assembly Plant has benefited from a long-term deal with Waymo to purchase 62,000 Pacifica Hybrids for conversion to its self-driving platform.
Waymo has been in a race with other automakers, such as Tesla and General Motors, to make widely available the first self-driving vehicle.
“This is great news for the region,” said Flavio Volpe, head of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association. “For Waymo, there is no distinction between Windsor and Detroit. It’s very likely they will continue their relationship with the minivans.
“Picking Detroit is another feather in the cap for the region as the automotive capital — not just for North America, but the world. This is not just some startup — this is Waymo.”
The company indicated it will build at a site controlled by American Axle & Manufacturing where it will “repurpose an existing facility.”
Waymo will invest US$13.6 million to adapt an existing plant, American Axle’s Holbrook Avenue campus, which may eventually utilize up to 200,000 sq. ft. and employ hundreds of workers, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.
Waymo hopes to begin manufacturing operations by the end of this year.
The news comes on the heels on Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ US$4.5-billion announcement roughly six weeks ago that includes a new auto assembly plant in Detroit.
“When you are from outside of the region, people look at Detroit-Windsor as the same place,” Volpe said. “This is going to mean an expanded workforce for the supply chain. There will be more work for the parts suppliers, mould makers to (companies invalid with) advanced technologies.”
Any technology company connected to Waymo’s plans “now have a real reason top set up in the region,” he said.
“This gives (Windsor) an opportunity to pitch (advanced technology) companies they otherwise might not of had a shot at and show how there is a compelling story on the other side of the river,” Volpe said.
Detroit’s history in the auto industry played into the company’s decision as Waymo in its announcement indicated a desire to be located “where there was a strong pool of talent across engineering, operations and fleet coordination” in the auto sector.
“Today’s announcement by Waymo shows that the city of Detroit remains at the centre of the future of the auto industry,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “Waymo could have located the world’s first 100 per cent dedicated Level 4 autonomous vehicle factory anywhere.”
The Michigan Economic Development Corp. — an arms-length entity of the state government in Michigan — has offered incentive-based grants that could add up to US$8 million for Waymo if it meets employment and expansion targets by certain dates over the next few years.
“By choosing to establish its new facility in Detroit, Waymo is continuing the city’s momentum and further cementing Michigan as a leader in mobility and the epicentre of advanced automotive manufacturing,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
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