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Stellantis eyeing Canada as possible destination for electric vehicle battery plant

WINDSOR, ONT. — Automaker Stellantis — formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — is narrowing down on two locations in North America to build a new electric vehicle battery plant to use in their next generation of electric vehicles. “At least from those two, at least one will be in the U.S., perhaps two, it’s not decided yet,” Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said during a fireside chat Wednesday. “But there is also an option that one of the two will be in Canada.” Tavares said the company is engaged in high-level discussions with local authorities and technology partners to pick their sites, as the automaker ramps up plans for production of a number of electric vehicles as part of its planned £44.5 billion investment in low-emission cars.

“We are ready to push the button, we just need to finalize a few discussions to make it legally binding,” he said. Efforts to land an electric vehicle manufacturing facility have been ongoing in Windsor-Essex for some time, but they have now swung into high gear. “We have a good case and I think we have a competitive case on a global basis,” said Invest WindsorEssex CEO Stephen MacKenzie.

Dave Cassidy of Unifor Local 444 believes the region is well-positioned to land the investment, which some estimate could be valued at £2 billion. “It’s a no brainer to me,” Cassidy told CTV News Thursday, upon hearing about the potential investment in Canada — and more specifically, in Windsor-Essex. “We have the people, we have the skill sets, we have what’s needed, right here in Windsor.” The president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association of Canada (APMA) says Ontario and Quebec have the raw materials to make it happen without having to bring them across the border in raw form, adding Windsor’s location and automotive history make the region a very strong candidate.

“The best place to be doing these things is at the closest point to the border while still having that all on the Canadian side,” Flavio Volpe says. Invest Windsor-Essex has been engaged in discussions with all levels of government — and multiple companies about setting up shop locally. On Thursday, Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra was in Windsor touring Invest WindsorEssex’s Virtual Reality CAVE, which is designed to support connected and autonomous vehicle development.

MacKenzie says the federal and provincial governments will play a key role in any future investment in a battery plant and the two discussed the latest developments from Stellantis during the visit. “To get a plant, is it a priority? Is it number one on my wish list?

100 per cent right, it is,” MacKenzie said, adding if these attempts are fruitful, another two billion dollars in supply chain investments could follow, along with thousands of jobs. “If you’re able to land one of these because of your business case and it makes sense to the companies, the supply chain that comes with it is transformational,” said MacKenzie. “It will change this region.” Tavares indicated a decision will be made by the end of 2021, leading APMA’s president to make a bold prediction.

Back in 2020, the automaker committed to spending up to £1.5 bilion to retool the Windsor Assembly Plant to build plug-in and hybrid electric minivans by 2024, which would bring back about 2,000 jobs and the recently eliminated third shift.

“I won’t be surprised by the time the dust settles a few years from now, Windsor’s got a couple battery plants,” Volpe said.