Ford Motor Co., Canada's top-selling automaker, is confident it can preserve its manufacturing profile in the nation despite the cost of the high Canadian dollar, the company's lead executive for the country said this week.
"We are optimistic despite the Canadian dollar where it is," Dianne Craig, chief executive officer of Ford Canada, said during the Bloomberg Canada Economic Summit in Toronto. "So it's between the business partners that we have, certainly the government, that will enable us to at least keep the footprint that we have today."
Ford says it pays its richest wages and benefits in the world to workers in Canada, where it has retrenched to just one assembly plant. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker is working on an investment plan for its Oakville plant, outside Toronto, though it's "not ready for prime time yet," she said.
While Ford mulls a fresh investment in Canada, General Motors Co. is shifting production from the country as its currency trades at about parity with the U.S. dollar, from as low as 62 cents in 2002. GM, the largest American automaker, said in December that it will make the next-generation Camaro sports car in Lansing, Michigan, and stop output in Oshawa, Ontario.
Ford's Oakville factory currently makes the Ford Edge and Flex and Lincoln MKX and MKT. Ford in 2011 closed its St. Thomas, Ontario, plant that made the Ford Crown Victoria and Lincoln Town Car sedans.
Automotive companies invested about $43 billion in North America from 2010 to 2012, of which $2.3 billion, or 5 percent, was pegged to Canada, according to the Center for Automotive Research. The U.S. and Mexico received $3.7 billion each last year, while Canada took about $200 million, the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based researcher said.
The disconnect between healthy Canadian auto sales and its share of global auto investment is worrying, Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc., said at the event.
Auto sales in Canada are on pace to climb for a third consecutive year, with deliveries rising 1.4 percent through April to 527,019, according to DesRosiers. Sales rose 5.7 percent last year to 1.68 million.
"From a North American perspective, I've never been more optimistic," said DesRosiers. "What's different is that Canada doesn't seem to be participating in the upside."
For decades, Canada typically got 15 percent to 20 percent of assembly-plant investment, said DesRosiers.
"In the assembly sector we're lucky to get 4 or 5 percent, it's all going to Mexico, the U.S. South; in the parts sector it's even less."