PLANT

Ontario provides $85M for Chrysler expansion in Windsor

Funds will be used to upgrade minivan plant and help finance an R&D project in Windsor.


TORONTO — The Ontario government will provide more than $85 million to Fiat Chrysler for an expansion of the automaker’s minivan assembly plant in Windsor, The Canadian Press has learned.

Sources said the provincial investment will “safeguard” the Windsor assembly plant, where Chrysler added 1,200 new jobs on top of 4,000 existing positions to help produce the new Pacifica minivan.

The sources said the funds will be used to upgrade the assembly plant and to help finance a project at the Fiat Chrysler Automotive Research and Development Centre in Windsor.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to make the grant announcement at Chrysler in Windsor June 15, before crossing into Detroit to meet with Ford Motor Company executive vice president Joseph Hinrichs and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

The eight-passenger Chrysler Pacifica minivan produced in Windsor will be available in two plug-in hybrid electric models that the sources said align with the government’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles withdrew a request for $700 million in provincial and federal funding in 2014 after former Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak urged the government not to give in to the automaker’s “ransom” demand.

The company complained about being used as a “political football,” but in 2015 announced it would invest $2 billion to retool its Windsor assembly plant.

The announcement of more auto sector jobs in Windsor follows last week’s announcement by General Motors that it was looking to hire up to 750 engineers and would open a new software centre to help develop self-driving cars.

Ontario’s Liberal government has a long history of providing money to automakers, and teamed up with the federal government in 2009 to contribute $10.6 billion to Chrysler Canada and GM Canada to keep them afloat during the recession.

Ontario sold its GM and Chrysler shares last year, and said it gained about $1.1 billion on its original $4.8-billion bailout package to the two automakers.

The province gave Toyota a $42.1-million grant in 2015 for upgrades at its Cambridge assembly plant and to add a new line at its assembly plant in Woodstock.

Honda got a provincial grant of up to $85.7 million in 2014 to improve operations at its assembly and engine manufacturing plant in Alliston.

Ford of Canada got $70.9 million in 2013 to turn its Oakville assembly plant into one of the most advanced automaking operations in the world.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says the government grant is not “corporate welfare,” when she made the announcement June 15 at the Fiat Chrysler Automotive Research and Development Centre in Windsor.

The government says the investment for the Chrysler Pacifica will safeguard the Windsor assembly plant, where Chrysler added 1,200 new jobs on top of 4,000 existing positions to produce the minivan.

Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid says Chrysler will have to submit invoices to the provinces of investments they have made in order to get the grant money.

Wynne says her government made the decision to “partner” with the auto industry, a critical sector in Ontario, but that doesn’t make it “corporate welfare.”

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016

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