by Tony Whitney


Six automakers have Canadian plants

The world auto industry has never been easy to follow as far as production statistics go, especially when it comes to “who builds what and where?”

There was a time when the situation was very clear, with just about every vehicle built in the country its maker was headquartered in. Times have changed, and nowadays, your new vehicle may have been built in almost any country with the technological capability to get the job done.

As a result of this auto industry globalization, we have Mercedes-Benz and BMW products built in the U.S.; Volkswagen Beetles, Dodge trucks and Chrysler PT Cruisers built in Mexico; and just about every brand of Japanese automobile built in the U.S. or Canada. As developing countries flex their economic muscles, expect even more vehicles to be sourced in non-traditional countries, with China and Russia likely contenders. Many vehicles built in Japanese-owned plants in North America are not even sold in their “home” countries and a few are even exported to Japan, where they become “imports” despite their Toyota or Nissan nameplates.

Thankfully, Canada is playing a major role in the auto manufacturing business and the industry is a critical part of this country’s economic strength. All of Canada’s auto plants are located in Ontario, which doesn’t please industry-boosters in British Columbia, Quebec and other regions. Even so, Canadians can be proud of these plants and the success they’ve enjoyed. One or two automakers have reported that quality levels in Canada are higher than anywhere else in the world — testimony to the skills this country has developed among its auto workers.

But exactly which vehicles are being built here right now? I contacted all automakers with Canadian manufacturing operations and the list that resulted is very impressive, to say the least.

Some Canadian-built vehicles
2005 Chrysler 300C
2005 Chrysler 300C

2004 Ford Freestar
2004 Ford Freestar

2005 Buick Allure
2005 Buick Allure

2005 Honda Ridgeline
2005 Honda Ridgeline

2005 Chevrolet Equinox
2005 Chevrolet Equinox

2005 Toyota Matrix XR
2005 Toyota Matrix XR
Click images to enlarge

DaimlerChrysler Canada builds some of the corporation’s most impressive products here, including the award-winning Chrysler 300, 300C, and Dodge Magnum, in both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions, along with the upcoming 2006 Dodge Charger. Also rolling out of DaimlerChrysler’s Canadian plants are Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan minivans, and sibling Chrysler Town & Country. Minivans have been built in Windsor, Ontario, right from the very start, more than 20 years ago. Also built in Canada is the novel and luxurious Chrysler Pacifica crossover. DaimlerChrysler also has an engine plant in Windsor.

Ford of Canada is based in Oakville, Ontario, and has a long history of auto production in just about every category. Currently, Ford is building Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis sedans, Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans.

General Motors has a huge multi-plant complex in Oshawa, Ontario, and builds both automobiles and pickup trucks. Right now, production lines are busy with the new Buick Allure sedan (LaCrosse for US export), Pontiac Grand Prix sedan, Chevrolet Impala sedan, Chevrolet Monte Carlo coupe, and Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. GM Oshawa builds pickups in a variety of cab and box configurations.

Honda has been active in Canada for many years, with its plant located in Alliston, Ontario. Two of Honda’s luxury division products are built in Alliston – Acura MDX SUV and the “mini-luxury” Acura EL. A derivative of the Honda Civic, EL is sold only in Canada and has been quite successful. Honda products assembled at the plant include Civic sedan, Pilot SUV and the yet-to-reach-the-dealers Ridgeline pickup truck. Getting the Ridgeline must have been quite a scoop for Honda Canada, because it’s an important vehicle for the company and there’s lots of production capacity in the U.S. that could conceivably have been used instead.

Suzuki has a plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, which it has operated in cooperation with General Motors for many years as CAMI. The plant was recently assembling Chevrolet Trackers and Suzuki Vitaras, but with the demise of those models, production is currently devoted exclusively to the Chevrolet Equinox SUV; no Suzukis are being produced. There’s hope down the road, however, in the form of the Suzuki Concept-X SUV shown recently at the Detroit and Toronto auto shows. A production version of Concept-X is slated to be built at the Ingersoll plant, which should be a major boost for Suzuki and its employees.

Toyota’s plant in Cambridge, Ontario, is said to be one of the most efficient the automaker has when it comes to quality. Perhaps that’s why it was decided that Cambridge should build the RX 330 SUV, the first Lexus slated for North American assembly. There’s a hybrid version of the RX upcoming and this could also be built at Toyota’s Ontario operation. Toyota also builds the hot-selling Corolla in Cambridge, along with the youth-targeted Matrix hatchback and its variants. Toyota also operates a highly-successful aluminum wheel plant in Delta, B.C. which has supplied Toyota operations around North America for many years now.

Large numbers of vehicles built at Canadian plants are exported to the U.S. and elsewhere — in fact, some of the products built here are not even sold in Canada. The future of auto building in this country looks bright and at least one automaker active here has hinted that a second plant might be built. There have been some dark spells, like the closure of GM’s St. Therese plant in Quebec, which once built the much-mourned Camaro and Firebird coupes. Quebec was also home at one time to a Hyundai plant, but this didn’t work out and it was closed.

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