By on March 4, 2014

windsor_assembly

UPDATE: Mere minutes after our prior editorial was published  Chrysler announced that they will be withdrawing their request for funding from the Canadian government, and

“…confirmed its intention to begin to allocate to our Windsor, Ontario plant the development and industrialization of the next “people carrier” architecture (the so-called next minivan and derivatives)”

 We are awaiting a call from Chrysler to discuss the matter. In the mean time, you can read the official announcement here.

The biggest news for North America’s auto industry was announced at Geneva, and it wasn’t a new product debut. According to Automotive News, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has decided on a location for the next assembly plant, and things aren’t looking great for the current plant in Windsor, Ontario.

Claiming that the merger between Fiat and Chrysler “flattened the world out completely”, Marchionne reportedly dismissed the idea of national loyalty (Marchionne is a naturalized Canadian), telling reporters

“…it will become evident over the next 24 to 48 hours that we have taken a position, and life will go on. I think the decision has been made. We’re in the position of finalizing the choice. We’re pretty well done.”

Marchionne has been lobbying both the Ontario and Canadian federal government for a reported $700 million in funds, the single largest amount aside from Chrysler’s 2009 bailout package. Marchionne said that countries competing for auto production have an “…obligation to match and effectively equal what the competition is offering” in terms of subsidies, suggesting that both levels of government ought to offer competitive subsidies to keep the minivans in Windsor.

For a country f 35 million people, this is unrealistic. Canada simply cannot compete with the handouts being offered by the United States and Mexico, which are de rigueur for any auto maker looking to set up a plant (or re-tool an existing one). A relatively high Canadian dollar also contributes to high labor costs, something that can easily be remedied by moving production to the southern United States (where it will be reduced to $14-$16 per hour, or roughly half of what it costs in Canada), or Mexico, where workers would earn just a few dollars per hour.

Labor costs aside, Mexico is looking like the most appealing choice for the new vans. FCA has the capacity in Mexico to build the new vans, thanks to the Dodge Journey’s move to the Sterling Heights, Michigan plant, and the Fiat 500′s move to Poland. Along with NAFTA, Mexico has a free trade agreement with the European Union, allowing FCA to export cars to a broad range of markets. And with planned upgrades to a flexible line, this could mean anything from the new minivans to a crossover to a new sedan. The timing of the van’s launch also coincides with the end of Chrysler’s contract with Unifor (formerly the CAW), allowing them to make a clean break from Windsor.

Assuming Chrysler does leave Windsor, it will herald the start of a painful, Australia-style exodus from Southern Ontario for the Detroit Three. GM’s Oshawa plant is almost certainly the next plant to close, which will devastate the working-class town that has built itself around GM. That will leave just one plant for each American OEM- the GM CAMI plant in Ingersoll, the Ford plant in Oakville and the FCA plant in Brampton as the sole remnants of Detroit’s Canadian automotive assembly sector. On the other hand, Ontario’s three non-unionized transplants, operated by Honda and Toyota, don’t appear to be going anywhere.

 

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60 Comments on “Editorial: Marchionne Settles On Minivan Plant Location...”


  • avatar
    alsorl

    And Canadian’s seem to be more loyal to the big 3 autos. Dive up to Ontario. You see more big 3 models then you see in Michigan.

  • avatar
    bobman

    Geez, I would be surprised and disappointed if the federal and provincial governments didn’t come through. It would be a blow to the Windsor economy without this investment. That idiot, Hudak, has been referring to Chrysler and Sergio as welfare recipients. What a short sighted POS he is.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I have no idea who Hudak is or his positions, but two things are evident.
      -Taxes in Canada are unworldly high.
      -Politicians in Canada(everywhere?) are extremely out of touch to the real business world.

      It’s hard to produce a competitive product when your taxed to death. And the 700M is probably to offset the costs of operating in Canada. Obviously Canada is a business prohibitive country, and rather than giving Chrysler 700M they need to investigate WHY it needs 700M. The exchange rate problem can be controlled, if they are willing.
      It’s insanity to say businesses need to be taxed highly and turn around and subsidize them so you can keep the jobs they have.

      And yes I typed this after the update.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        Just how are businesses taxed to death? The actual corporate tax rates are not high in comparision with other G20 jurisdictions, and with the ability to jurisdiction shop for corporations, they can avoid even more tax.

        There are definitely things which could be done better in the Canadian Tax Code, but simple rhetoric is pretty trite. The biggest costs of business in Canada are not necessarily tax related.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          There was an article recently on this site proclaiming Canada to be one of the most expensive countries to produce in. While we can correctly say the exchange rate has something to do with that, we cannot ignore the reasons for the exchange rate. There’s no one that just walks into a room and says today’s exchange rate will be xxx.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            There is a difference between expense and taxation.

          • 0 avatar
            juicy sushi

            No they don’t. But taxation levels aren’t generally the determiner of exchange rates. More to the point, when saying businesses are taxed to death, as I said, who are you comparing the rates to? The rates in many competitor jurisdictions are higher (much higher in some cases). And, as I mentioned, with some creative accounting and careful selection of jurisdictions, you can effectively “off-shore” revenues so that they don’t wind up getting taxed (see Apple for the best example).

            There are very real issues which Canada and other developed countries face regarding the cost of manufacturing, and the resulting pressures which can remove that kind of industry, and the associated middle-income jobs, from these countries. It is a very real, and very significant issue. It merits serious conversation, dealing in specifics.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I understand, but the expense of building in South Carolina, and the expense of Ontario, have proven to be two different animals.

            Taxes, regulations, whatever you want to call them require more expense in Canada. Why is this?

          • 0 avatar
            juicy sushi

            That’s a good question. Are the expenses provincial, or federal? Are they just related to the cost of living (and associated wages) of Canada?

            Is there actually no difference, and it’s more a case of getting the best deal on specific incentives which could artificially lower the cost?

            I don’t know the answers to those questions, but it is very, very interesting that after essentially trying to get $700 million in funding through threats, Sergio committed an abrupt capitulation, and not only stopped asking for funds, but also committed to building the cars here anyway. Nothing changed in the interim, so was there actually nothing uncompetitive about the Canadian position to begin with?

          • 0 avatar

            From what I understand of Canadian taxation and finance, sales taxes fund the Single-Payer Health Care System up in Canada, and until exchange rate fluctuations made finally more expensive in a real-world wage to produce in Canada, it was cheaper to produce vehicles in Canada because wages were negotiated on their lonesome, and healthcare was provided by the STATE (federal gummint). Making it cheaper to produce the vehicles in Canada, vs. USA-land because our healthcare schemes and insurance company price-gouging made our labour that much more expensive compared with theirs.

      • 0 avatar
        bobman

        I’m sure there have been backroom discussions and assurances made. Plus certain individuals have been told to shut up. From his statement, it’s quite clear he wasn’t happy with this being used as a political issue to push someone’s misinformed dogma. Words like ‘extortion’ were used in reference to Chrysler and Sergio. Very irresponsible from a leader of a political party who should know better.

        • 0 avatar
          juicy sushi

          I think the term was accurate. He made a threat to move production elsewhere if funds were not forthcoming. What would you characterize that as?

          • 0 avatar
            bobman

            Hey juicy
            I don’t see words such as ‘threat’ and ‘extortion’ as appropriate when describing business transactions and I don’t think Sergio meant in any other sense than a pure business statement. In fact, the Windsor Star site posted the statement regarding this, you might want to have a quick read if you haven’t already done so..

            I have already expressed my characterization of this subject with my two posts above.

          • 0 avatar
            siuol11.2

            bobman, if you don’t think extortion has to do with demanding something like money, I’m curious as to exactly what your definition entails. Just because it involves a business transaction does not make it above board.

          • 0 avatar
            bobman

            @siuol11.2
            Those words are used to describe criminal activity. Chrysler isn’t asking for anything that isn’t a normal expectation. Government participation for long term investments where the community gains a great deal of value is something many regions compete for. Our politicians have decided to mount a personal attack on Sergio and target Chrysler as seeking corporate welfare rather than try to find a win – win solution. Look at some of the posts on the web. I think Sergio’s response is basically a big F!ck you, I’ve got bigger fish to fry and deal with this later. Not a good situation for Windsor or Brampton. Then again, this may be something for his successor to deal with and , by the looks of what’s happening in Oshawa, it seems these auto companies have long memories.

          • 0 avatar
            juicy sushi

            No, they’re adjectives used within the rules of the English language to describe demands made by one party in a negative manner. A demand articulated in the sense of stressing that a negative situation will result if the demand is not met, is a threat. That’s what the word means. Extortion is both a criminal charge, and a word used to describe particularly negative demands.

            They are words with legitimate uses.

            Now, how was what Sergio was asking for a normal expectation? Governments do make investments in public goods for mass consumption. In a capitalist economy, they do not, as a rule, hand money to for-profit corporations so that they can do business.

            The fact that some do so does not make it something to be expected, nor does it make it a good decision.

          • 0 avatar
            bobman

            Hey juicy.
            Thanks for the English lesson. I have made my points quite clear and have no desire debate this at this level with you. However, if you like, I concede. The prize is yours, although I just don’t know what that would be.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Sad as this may be for the local area, Marchionne did say this would happen without the investment/subsidy from the Government.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    It was inevitable. The only real issue is how Ontario is going to be able to adapt going forward. Looking at the leadership options, one is not optimistic.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Asking for a $20/head tax on Canadians for a few manufacturing jobs is a bit much. If building vans there doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense. I don’t see how he can go the low cost route in a southern US state though. Fiatsler is a UAW company. The NLRB doesn’t let organized companies shift production to RTW states. Ask Boeing. Mexico beckons.

  • avatar
    Sceptic

    Unless there is some existing capacity to be found in the US, Mexico it is. I am not a fan of FCA products, but Marchionne is a very impressive business leader. The only other current CEO of comparable business acumen, sparkling personality and ability to deliver is Carlos Ghosn.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Hey, nothing is settled yet. Nothing is cast in stone, as yet. This is just the cranking up of the political dance before the final decision is made.

    There is still a lot of dancing left to the maneuvering and positioning for the upper hand in negotiations.

    I believe Sergio will get his $700M, and more. The Canadians just don’t like to be dictated to or held over the proverbial barrel, but they’ll see the light. They’ll pay and be glad they did!

    Refusing Sergio’s request for $700M is like cutting of your nose to spite your face.

    And the same will happen in the US. Sergio will make a similar offer for (probably) more money from the US government to expand or modernize plants in the US OR he will take them South of the Border.

    The US government will agree to whatever amount Sergio wants and the UAW will see to it rather than lose those jobs in America.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      The local political situation though does not suite what you’re describing. I can’t talk about the federal government, but neither the provincial government, nor the opposition party likeliest to win in the next election are in a position to offer that kind of cash. It wouldn’t likely win enough seats for it to be politically worthwhile.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        You probably are right in summing up the situation because you would know your own system much better than I, a foreigner.

        But there is still the likely chance that your federal government may jump into this kabuki theatre because keeping the plant there going is far more beneficial to the nation as a whole than it is to see those jobs go to Mexico.

        Make no mistake, Sergio knows what he is doing. I believe Sergio will get what he wants, and more, because the potential for Canada’s national wealth is unlimited. Sergio is merely tapping into some of it. A sort of “spreading Canada’s wealth around”, if you will.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Chrysler issued a press release today indicating that they aren’t seeking the requested subsidies anymore, and will continue building the vans in Windsor.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            danio3834, thanks for the heads up. I missed it because real-life got in the way of my perusing.

            Thanks for the link, too.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            I wonder if Sergio got his $700 million?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Al, we’ll never know. These backroom deals rarely ever see the light of day.

            Only the actual parties involved know what transpired with a few well-placed phone calls.

            My guess would be that ALL parties got what they needed to have; the federal and provincial governments kept the jobs and tax base, the union kept their dues paying members, and Sergio got something for his investment in his adopted country.

            Everybody wins. Everybody’s happy.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          “the potential for Canada’s national wealth is unlimited”

          I’m trying to figure out if this is sarcasm or sincere. If it is sincere it is mistaken; no national treasury is unlimited. The idea that governments have unlimited funds to spend on projects with limited returns is what created the US budget defect mess.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Toad, it is sincere. Canada is sitting on top of a wealth of natural resources and is actually willing to exploit them, extract them, and sell them to the highest bidder.

            Many illegal aliens press right on to Canada after getting their US divers license in New Mexico, rather than try to find a job in the US somewhere.

  • avatar
    Thatkat09

    Hopefully Sergio’s just bluffing with the “flat earth” thing. Or it could be in reference to the Renegade being built in Italy. Whatever the case, I really really really really hope he decides to stay in Windsor. Its a good plant and the people are hard workers, it be a major shame not just for the auto industry but for the people of Windsor as well. He’d destroy the economy there, and since Sergio went to college in Windsor, it would be pretty heartless of him as well.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    This article is outdated speculation now.

    http://www.media.chrysler.com/newsrelease.do?&id=15404&mid=1

    “Chrysler to build next-generation minivan in Windsor, withdraws request for government aid”

    http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2014/03/04/marchionne-to-reveal-minivan-investment-decision-in-two-days-report/

    • 0 avatar
      gmichaelj

      thanks, maybe you should be an editor danio.

    • 0 avatar

      Boo-hoo. Your attempt at outright extortion is being portrayed for exactly what it is: Corporate Welfare cash grab.

      Every province, city, etc, up in Canada, and every State/City/County in the U.S. should make ALL incentives and tax breaks given to companies required to be paid IN FULL, should production or operations be moved elsewhere, AND/OR if the promised jobs are not created. For the past 30 years. You could make it retroactive too, since they made spying on U.S. Citizens retroactively legal, I guess you could do so with corporate welfare payouts as well.

      With special subsections requiring owners, shareholders, company officers and ALL AFFILIATED parent or sub-companies be PERSONALLY financially liable for all cleanup costs in event of any pollution or disaster such as the recent one on Charleston, WV.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        You realize that making shareholders personally responsible for all negative eventualities would basically wipe out the stock market, every pension fund, and our economic system. Even banana republic leaders don’t suggest that idea.

        That being said, I’m all for elimination of corporate welfare. No incentives and a flat tax for everyone. Of course, then politicians of all stripes can’t play favorites, and if they can’t play favorites there is no reason to donate money to them…so it won’t happen.

        • 0 avatar

          I guess there’s such a thing a too much “personal responsibility.”

          Left comment sit too long to edit, should read “required to REpaid IN FULL”, sorry.

          Also, would not making parent companies and shareholders financially liable for all cleanup costs (and forced to carry insurance policies for such seemingly inevitable eventualities) actually force corporations to SELF-regulate and SELF-police to avoid costly environmental disasters costing ACTUAL taxpayers BILLIONS of dollars each and every year? What’s your problem with that?

  • avatar
    Sooke

    Three words, Ontario.

    Right. To. Work

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Fascinating. So Sergio caved. I am very interested in seeing what changed the numbers sufficiently to make it viable. If it always was, and he was merely bluffing about the move, it really will cost him credibility with other governments going forward, at least, for those with long enough memories.

    Reading through that press release, it seems to be rather bitter. They concede that their funding demand was a PR disaster, but then go on to make the commitment anyway (leading one to wonder how viable the alternatives were).

    It then finishes with a vague threat regarding 2016 labour negotiations. Either Sergio’s kicking the cost-savings can down the road, or the costs of relocating production to a cheaper jurisdiction, in this case, were prohibitive. If so, that really hurts his bargaining power going forward, since this situation has been so visible in the media.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I would presume that the total cost of building a new facility somewhere else was greater than the cost of staying put.

      Building another facility not requires money, but time. And delays are bad for revenues.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        That’s what I presume as well. It really undercuts Sergio’s rhetoric if so as the lesson local governments can take is that profitably ditching G7 locations is harder than claimed.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        You might also want to read this:

        http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2014/02/14/chryslers-shell-game/

        The federal government asked Chrysler for a full accounting of the costs, since they had a concern that most of the investment would end up in Ohio and Michigan. The plant itself should cost perhaps a billion to retool, so where was the remaining $1.6 billion going to be spent.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          I doubt that the accounting was an issue. It’s not likely that Chrysler would have pitched that number without first having calculated some sort of way to justify it, at least on paper.

          This smells more like a desire to avoid the PR problem that could come from a protracted political dispute, which was presumably coupled with some timing pressures. I’m frankly quite surprised that Marchionne caved so easily on this one — he’s very good at playing hardball — but I suppose that he believes that alienating a large part of his customer base isn’t worth the cost.

  • avatar
    Boff

    What a strange turn of events. It’s likely that gubmint money was still on the table, and Sergio held all the cards.Perhaps the scale of the investment will be decreased, making it easier for them to pull up stakes if the next round of negotiations with Unifor don’t go well.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Q.In which single country in the world is Chrysler the market leader?

    A. Canada.

    There are two things to consider beyond Marchionne’s press release.

    1. Chrysler has been the #1 vehicle seller in Canada this Jan and Feb, outselling Ford by 5500 vehicles. Sales are at an historic high.

    http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2014/03/canada-auto-sales-brand-rankings-february-2014-ytd.html?m=1

    2. Somehow, despite paying “uncompetitive” salaries to Canadian workers, they run ad after ad on TV advertising the Dodge Caravan Canada Edition for $18,995. And they’re not losing money on them.

    Sales would plummet if they got criticised for pulling out of the country where they are the #1 seller and sent the jobs to Mexico, where if you read the link about VW I posted yesterday, line workers make US $20,000 per year, not $16 a day.

    Marchionne is taking a real look at which side his bread is buttered on, and is doing the correct thing after that snitty letter to the Prime Minister, viz: shut up and get on with it before Canadians get bristly with him and slow down buying Mexican Rams.

    Industrial policy is a big deal in Canada at the moment, and for the company selling the most vehicles, PR is precious. Especially as the labour cost is a piffling percentage of manufacturing cost.

    In addition, all manufacturers more than make up any differences in “profitability” here by charging $1700 shipping instead of $800 in the US, and that’s straight ripoff money, the exception being Volvo at $1100, who apparently remembered to pick up the phone and check actual shipping rates. Time to pull the manufacturers’ feet out of our asses.

    Any decent “Option group” on a vehicle in the US and Canada makes more $ than the high wages paid here as compared to third world wages. Time to wake up and NOT bite the hand that feeds you.

    Chrysler, put your nose to grindstone. Get on with it.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Let’s hope the beer cans manage to stay out of the doors this time around.

    From my office location, right now, I am overlooking where the previous DaimlerChrysler plant (just outside St. Louis, MO) used to be. An overwhelming number of individuals who live in this town consequently used to work in that same plant. Fast forward to now, and a large, 290 acre field is all that remains. They finally knocked the aged complex down about 2 or so years ago, figuring the land would move quicker without the plant there.

    After all of that, they probably couldn’t give this piece of land away.

    The stories that circulated… good grief. Let’s just say it was always a party. Break time. Lunch time. Hell, on the line (so say the now unemployed former Chrysler plant workers that live in this fine town). I also believe they built the Ram trucks as well as the minivans here.

    I also remember, not long ago, a nosey reporter barging in on a group of Detroit Chrysler employees smoking- I believe- a “blunt” (if that’s what you call it) and drinking cold ones. Then they scattered like roaches. Rather humurous. Where were they running too? Back to work after getting their fill of greenery?

    This was none other than the crew responsible for building the “new” Grand Cherokee.

    I have yet to hear of a bunch of obnoxious Canadians letting it loose on the line…

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    No CEO is going to walk away from hundreds of millions of free dollars. Waiting for Marchionne to drop the other shoe…

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I suspect that Marchionne has a plan that goes beyond corporate welfare. If he agrees to a deal he would be stuck with Unifor contracts as well as being tied to staying in Canada.

    He now has the option to pull out of Canada. He most likely will invest in the minivan plant and kill the other smaller plant.

    We don’t tend to be as nationalistic as our southern neighbours but it still would be a PR disaster. Ontario has faired poorly due to contracture of the manufacturing segment.

    I am sure that it would be a huge political football with or without bailout (investment initiatives).

    I suspect that this last turn of events is aimed at Unifor.

    • 0 avatar
      RS

      Agreed. Cutting the subsidy request is the first step in leaving Canada. This next generation minivan will probably be Canada’s last. Chrysler will use the next couple of years grooming a new plant some place in the US or South NAFTA.

      Sergio is a brilliant businessman and this decision has set up many future options. If he had capacity someplace right now he would move it. Chrysler sells too many Minivans for production overseas. It’s best if production is in the US or close by.

      “In the last five years, there has been $42 billion in automotive investments in North America — $2 billion in Canada, and the rest in the U.S. and Mexico,” Bigland said. “As a Canadian, that’s a bit of a concern. The jurisdiction has to be more competitive.”

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        All good things come to an end. Even the US automakers have invested heavily in Mexico, China and other places in order for them to increase their chances of improving their bottom line.

        Fiatsler should not be held to a different standard. It’s going to go to places that will help their profitability.

        No one should underestimate Sergio. He’s on a roll.

        • 0 avatar
          frozenman

          The people that buy these vans seem to park them all at the local Wal-Mart, don’t think they would care if Canadaor US lost the jobs. The race to the bottom continues, oh well.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    What is going on here? “Nope, won’t take cheap millions because there’s some political smell around but its a business (which presumably is about making money above all?) and we are going to use “our own money” that we don’t really have and expand in Canada where we withdraw our request for almost-freebies?

    This is so confusing its ridiculous. Another take on it with some more details;

    http://business.financialpost.com/2014/03/04/chrysler-funding-ontario-plants/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FP_TopStories+%28Financial+Post+-+Top+Stories%29&utm_content=Netvibes

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I think that Marchionne backed out because the Ontario and Canadian Federal Government had too many conditions on the funding.

      He mentioned that it had become too political and that sums it up.

      He didn’t want to become ‘G’overnment ‘M’otors ‘C’anada or should I say the ‘F’ederal ‘C’ar ‘A’gency.

      He already has to deal with too many socialistic governments and unions in the EU so why add to the mess by creating the same system here.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        I think the governments may also have had some pushback in the sense of we already saved your ass once, why should assistance be an ongoing thing?

        The funds likely would have come with conditions, and should have. It’s going to be a PR problem either way for FCA, and other industries in general over the next few years. The income inequality debate is just getting started, politically, and the responses taken may not be what people like Sergio will find favourable.

  • avatar
    bobman

    Hmmm, a lot of stories being posted about how the government was surprised that FCA “pulled away from the table”, while it appeared that “Canadian government has been having good conversations with the company” and “Marchionne, who runs Fiat in what is arguably the most uncompetitive assembly environment in the world, accused Canada of being uncompetitive”. Nothing like a great welcome from our politicians to private investors. I don’t think anyone knows what’s going on but, with this type of shit slinging, it’s no wonder FCA stopped the negotiations. This is a terrible situation created by our politicians who are acting very bush-league at the moment. Hopefully this thing can be salvaged somehow.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Which level of government was slinging mud? Don’t forget there are two levels of government involved. More to the point, perhaps Sergio noticed that the general public actually rather shared the sentiment, and that his demands would potentially hurt sales.


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