Ford just came out with the news that it’s pulling out of the electric vehicle race in Canada. It’s another major tech company and auto manufacturer leaving the country. For Ford’s CEO Mark Fields, it’s “very disappointing and we’re working with the government and officials to help them understand why we made this decision,” the New York Times reports.
Sure, there is a slight edge to owning a Canadian auto company, but not a big one.
Ford has been one of the major auto manufacturers that you can buy a car made in, or plan to buy one made in, Canada. Ford is the only major car manufacturer in the province of Ontario that makes the Focus. This is a provincial company. Ford owns Ontario-based aluminum fabricator Maple Leaf Aluminum, which makes an aluminum-bodied car. And the smaller company officially manufactures the Transit Connect, the people hauler, with Ford’s stamping technology.
For the uninitiated, there are three levels of quality that can be assessed when building a car—bearing, styling and engineering. Shrinking the vehicle down to aluminium will lower the weight, helping boost the performance.
Even though the Focus is made in Ontario, the vehicle is based on the Fusion. And based on Ford’s website, it seems Ford made all of its cars in southeast Michigan in the U.S.
So what does this mean for electric vehicle and manufacturing in Canada?
Ontario has the right stuff.
The province has the most work to do—and we’re just at the beginning of a new concept, not the end of a new idea.
Eighty percent of car buyers in Ontario don’t own a hybrid, which is the most common alternative to pure gasoline. Eighty percent of Ontarians prefer not to own an electric vehicle. The bulk of Ontario’s electric vehicle shoppers are still just looking at Tesla’s $79,000 Model S P100D. It’s an insanely rich car.
This month, we got a preview of EVs in Toronto. Samsung will make a family of electric vehicles for everyone from baby carriages to professional truck cabs. And the Times reports all of this will be financed with cheap loans, many of which are provided by government agencies such as Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation and the city of Toronto.
Ontario has made changes to its regulations recently to encourage EV use. The province this year created a newly created agency, Ontario Electrification, which aims to end the province’s reliance on oil-based gasoline by 2025. The goal is to get 1 million EVs on the road by 2025, and the provincial government says a lot of other cities are also struggling to overcome historic oil dependency to focus on long-term issues.
Ford is not alone in its decision. According to the NYT, Fiat Chrysler will suspend new production of electric vehicles this year. Honda and Tesla both said they’re phasing out work here in Canada. The country’s own original model car company, General Motors, said it will halt production of all gas-powered cars, including popular cars such as the Volt and the Cruze.
The kicker here is that even as an Eastern Canadian, I’m motivated to buy a Ford. For now. I’m always impressed by Ontario’s political system and government. Things moved swiftly to let state-owned GM off the hook when its union workers were forced to take significant wage cuts and seniority stripping. I know my government was able to rescue IKEA from being forced out of Canada (and yet another Swedish furniture maker). It does what it takes to get things done. And that’s how we as Ontarians like it.
Ontario has the right stuff.
Despite downsizing, Ford will still provide green cars for the province.
At first, one wonders, why would Ford even risk the risk of slowing down development of electric vehicles when the technology is so breakthrough—and already mature? But then you listen to Canadian Minister of Economic Development and Innovation Jim Wilson, who says he expects that Ford “will continue to work with the federal government and Ontario government in future.”
Our culture, our government, our politicians? We do what we do to see that it gets done. And that’s pretty amazing.
[H/T to op-ed writer and electric car enthusiast Scott Anthony.]