Canadian Manufacturing

Ford president says Canada should shift into “offense” to protect its auto sector



Toronto, Ont.: It’s time for Canada to take “proactive, almost predatory” measures to keep its auto manufacturing industry competitive with closed-market economies, cautioned Ford Motor Co. of Canada’s President and CEO David Mondragon.

In a speech at the Economic Club of Canada, Mondragon urged the federal government to find new ways of promoting productivity, innovation, and job creation in the sector.

He said measures could include increasing automation and innovation funds to attract and keep more business in Canada at a time when “other countries are being very aggressive in terms of soliciting manufacturing [jobs].”

Mondragon also called for countries like Korea, which has an import rate of just four per cent, to be held accountable to demonstrate that their own market is open.

With the Canadian dollar hovering around parity with the US, it’s especially important to “be on the offense” now, he warned, adding that manufacturing represents 12 per cent of Canada’s overall GDP and if the figure drops, “we’ll never see that come back.”

Even though 12 per cent is still one point higher than the manufacturing share of the GDP in the US, Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association President Steve Rodgers agrees that Canada needs to catch up to car markers south of the border.

“We have fallen behind in productivity from the perspective of adapting to new software tools, 3-D solid modeling, and lean manufacturing efficiencies,” Rodgers says.

But he’s optimistic about Canada’s role in an evolving automanufacturing environment with new fuel economy standards and a shift to hybrid propulsion systems and other electric vehicles.

“The good news is we’re entering a period of unprecedented change and that presents an opportunity to catch up quickly with new manufacturing designs and processes,” he says.

Ford Canada is planning to capitalize on some of those changes, according to President David Mondragon’s outlook.

The company plans to bring five new electrified vehicles to market by 2012 and produce approximately 1.5 million of its EcoBoost engines in the following year. Mondragon said the company expects to move to a positive net cash position by the end of 2011.

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