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Ford adds 1,000 jobs at retooled Oakville plant

File photo of Ford Motor Company of Canada's Oakville Assembly Plant.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. is adding 1,000 new jobs at its assembly plant in Oakville, Ont., to build the redesigned Ford Edge crossover for global markets.

The jobs are being created as the auto maker prepares to launch the new version of the vehicle early next year.

The new jobs come after a $700-million redevelopment of the factory to enable it to build vehicles from what is known as a global platform – or basic underbody – that provides the underpinnings for vehicles sold around the world. That investment came with a financial contribution of $140-million from the federal and Ontario governments.

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The Ford plan represents the first major addition of new jobs in the vehicle-assembly sector in Canada since the Canadian Auto Workers union – now Unifor – agreed to lower wage rates for newly hired employees at the Canadian units of the Detroit Three auto makers. The union also agreed to lengthen the time it takes new employees to reach the full hourly wage of about $32 paid to longer-term workers.

The Ford jobs announcement comes amid a decline in employment in vehicle assembly in Canada, with the number of jobs falling 23 per cent to 49,900 in June from 64,700 a year earlier, according to numbers compiled by DesRosiers Automotive Consulants Inc.

"Investment in auto manufacturing pays off," Ford Canada president Dianne Craig said in a statement. "Not only is the investment helping us meet much-needed capacity for high demand products produced in Canada, it's creating jobs."

Ford Canada added 300 jobs at the plant last year. By the end of this year total employment at the Oakville plant should surpass 4,000.

The overwhelming majority of the jobs will be filled by employees new to Ford, although jobs have been offered to employees laid off from engine plants in Windsor, Ont., and a closed factory in St. Thomas, Ont.

"This is a great example of why a national auto strategy really pays off for our whole economy," Unifor president Jerry Dias added.

The Oakville plant produces the current version of the Edge, as well as the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKX and MKT crossovers.

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Industry sources have said the new platform will also provide the basic underbody for the Lincoln MKX, which is also expected to go on sale next year and be produced in the Oakville plant.

The Edge will be sold in about 100 countries worldwide, including some right-hand drive markets, which makes building the new vehicle more complicated than assembling the existing version.

"Every time you add more technology or more locations you get more complex," Oakville plant manager Will Cowell said in an interview Tuesday. "The technologies in the car, the complexity of the parts, the countries that they go to, when you add all that stuff up together you can imagine all the different parts associated with building the car."

Ford said in a presentation to analysts Monday that overall global vehicle sales will grow to 110 million annually by 2020 from 85 million last year.

Crossovers and other utility vehicles will represent 29 per cent of Ford's sales by 2020, compared with 23 per cent in 2013, Ford executives said during the presentation.

The Edge is a mid-sized crossover, while the MKX competes in the luxury crossover segment.

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Sales of Edge fell 24 per cent in August in the U.S. market and were down 14 per cent in the first eight months of the year from year-earlier levels. September sales results are scheduled to be released Wednesday.

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About the Author
Auto and Steel Industry Reporter

Greg Keenan has covered the automotive and steel industries for The Globe and Mail since 1995. He also writes about broader manufacturing trends. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism. More


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