Automobile

Stellantis committed to new product, three shifts in Windsor, Canada, say union, premier

Stellantis pledged during the 2020 contract negotiations with Unifor to spend between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion on retooling the plant and launching a new “electric or electrified” vehicle by 2024.

It, like all new investment promised by the Detroit 3 during those talks, was contingent on government assistance.

“The money from the feds and the province is there. The commitment from Canada is there, we need Stellantis to step up and make an announcement and put some people at ease,” Cassidy said. “We know there is product there. We don’t know what that product is. I want to make sure they announce that in the real near future.”

Cassidy also met with Premier Ford on Monday and got the same reassurances the politician laid out for reporters later in the day. 

The premier said the government has earmarked “hundreds of millions” of dollars for Stellantis.

“They’re going to put in a $1.5-billion investment,” he said. “We’re going to continue pouring money into the auto sector.

“We will be the No. 1 manufacturer of electric vehicles in any jurisdiction in North America.”

Sam Fiorani, vice-president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, said Stellantis needs another product in Windsor to sustain the plant. An EV is destined for the factory, but its arrival will likely be subject to the next round of bargaining.

“The last contract in 2020 promised this investment and a new vehicle on a new platform by 2024. Unfortunately, 2024 is [under] the next contract for Unifor,” Fiorani said. “So, this will come up in the next contract negotiations. It gives Stellantis a stand to say there is just not a market for these vehicles anymore, unless you make concessions or changes, we’re going to have to move product somewhere else. It just gives them that out.”

The current collective agreement expires in 2023. Unifor sought a three-year deal so it could bid on new investment at the same time the automaker is bargaining with the UAW in the U.S.

It could prove to be a massive gamble. Fiorani warned that if Stellantis doesn’t get what it wants from Unifor, the company could move minivan production to another plant in the U.S. or Mexico. “They have a few under-utilized car plants,” Fiorani said, noting that “removing the minivan altogether” is a possibility.

“They could easily step away from the minivan market, the market they built 40 years ago. They could do it, and it could be the final nail in the coffin,” he said.

Fiorani said since new product is “crucial to the next contract negotiations, this will be very protective information for Stellantis.”

“But they do have a product planned for that plant,” Fiorani said. “As long as a contract comes out that is good for Stellantis, a new product will go in there on a new platform, with electrification, as promised in the last contract.

“The new product for Windsor is not a fully electric vehicle, but an electrified vehicle with an electric drivetrain. It’s actually a product relocated from another plant. There’s a big shakeup within Stellantis North America to move products around and right-size plants. We don’t see it filling the whole plant on its own, so it would require some level of minivan production to balance out the capacity there.”

In the meantime, Cassidy hopes market conditions could change in favour of maintaining a two-shift operation. 

Stellantis said its decision to cut a shift due to the ongoing semiconductor shortage and COVID-19 pandemic for the change.

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