Chrysler intends to build next gen minivan in Windsor
Published Tuesday, March 4, 2014 1:09PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 4:53PM EST
Chrysler has announced its intention to allocate the development of the next “people carrier” to the Windsor Assembly Plant.
In a release Tuesday afternoon, Chrysler stated “the so-called next minivan and derivatives” will be produced out of Windsor.
The decision to build the minivan accompanies news that Chrysler has withdrawn all requests from the federal and provincial governments for financial assistance for development. The automaker states “that our projects are now being used as a political football, a process that, in our view, apart from being unnecessary and ill-advised, will ultimately not be to the benefit of Chrysler.”
According to UNIFOR president Jerry Dias, the "political football" Chrysler is refering to is comments made by Provincial Conservative leader Tim Hudak. Back on Feb. 24, Hudak called the automakers request for millions of dollars in funding "ransom money".
"Chrysler raised with me the Hudak comments," Dias says. "Chrysler said you’re telling me this person could end up being premier and he doesn’t understand the important role of government in the auto industry."
While not firmly dropping blame on Hudak, Canada's industry minister says Chrysler pulled away from the table becauase of Ontario's political situation.
"(Chrysler has) made a decision to push away from the table for now, principally because of concerns with the political dynamic in the province of Ontario," says minister James Moore. "It’s a surprise to (our government) but it’s a judgement (Chrysler has made) as a company."
As a result, Chrysler will allocate “whatever” funds are needed for their Canadian operations out of their own resources.Chrysler was previously asking for a rumoured $500 million investment from both levels of government.
"Hudak's comments hurt us there's no question," sayd Dias.
At the same time, Chrysler confirms that they intend to continue production of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger out of their Brampton facility.
“Our commitment to Canada remains strong,” said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne.
The decision means that 4,500 direct jobs and an overall 40,000 spin-off jobs will not move from Windsor-Essex.
“It is my sincere hope that all stakeholders involved commit to do what they can to preserve the competitiveness of the country, and in particular of the province of Ontario,” Marchionne said. “We will do what we can to preserve and nurture the competitiveness of our operations, but we reserve the right, as is true for all global manufacturers, to reassess our position as conditions change.”
“This comes as a bit of a surprise from Chrysler, particularly in light of the fact they said it was essential to have taxpayer support in order to have investment in Canada,” says Essex MP Jeff Watson.
Watson says he was told just this morning that talks were ongoing and they were going well.
“I don't know if Chrysler’s decision represents that they don't want the string attached that come with federal funding.”
The announcement comes hours after Marchionne told a room of reporters at the Geneva auto show that a decision on the future of the minivan would be made within 48 hours.
According to Automotive News, Marchionne said "I think the decision has been made. We're in the position of finalizing the choice. We're pretty well done." Marchionne would go on to say "that executives of multinational companies cannot be bound by national loyalties."
However not everyone is sold on Chrysler's investment, some refering to the announcement as a short term solution.
"Major manufacturers will not have long term investment; long term job security in any particular community without government support," says former union leader Ken Lewenza Sr.
Without government investments, Lewenza says the future of Windsor Assembly looks grim.
"To maintain full capacity and maintain a three shift operation, you need more than one vehicle," says Lewenza.
The automaker is said to be investing $3.6 billion in their Windsor and Brampton facility.
A worker on the production line at Chrysler's assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario, works on one of their new minivans on Jan. 18, 2011. (Geoff Robins / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
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