Fiat Chrysler to Invest Up to $1.1 Billion On Canada EVs

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV agreed to invest as much as $1.1 billion (C$ 1.5 billion) in one of its two assembly plants in Canada as part of a tentative agreement reached with more than 9,000 local autoworkers.

Unifor, which represents about 20,000 workers at Canadian auto facilities, said Fiat Chrysler agreed to spend between C$1.35 billion and C$1.5 billion on a new electric-vehicle platform that will be produced at its Windsor, Ontario, assembly plant starting in 2024. The investment means 2,000 jobs will be added at the plant, which laid off 1,500 people earlier this year.

“This is a home run for the community of Windsor,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said at a press conference Thursday in Toronto. “We know that with this investment, and as vehicles start to roll off the assembly line in 2024, that our third shift will be back.”

The agreement shows that Fiat Chrysler, whose late Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne resisted heavy investment in electric vehicles as a loss-making endeavor, is now stepping up electrification plans as global emissions regulations tighten. It’s introducing a hybrid Jeep Compass and Jeep Renegade in Europe, a plug-in Wrangler made in Toledo, Ohio, and last month it teased a hybrid concept of its new three-row Jeep Wagoneer.

The Italian-American company is combining with French carmaker PSA Group to create the world’s fourth-biggest auto manufacturer, which will be named Stellantis. The former rivals will share investment as the industry faces the burden of developing EVs and self-driving cars.

Most of the workers covered by the three-year Unifor contract are employed in Windsor, just across the river from Detroit. Dias said there are 425 people who can be called back to work in Windsor once production of the new vehicle starts.

Fiat Chrysler agreed to wage and benefits terms that follow the pattern Unifor reached with Ford Motor Co. in September. That deal included nearly C$2 billion in investments -- including C$590 million in government subsidies -- that will go toward producing battery-powered electric vehicles at the company’s assembly plant in Oakville, a western suburb of Toronto.

Fiat Chrysler is in talks with the Canadian government about subsidies for the new electric platform, Dias said.

‘Home of Minivans’

The Windsor plant represents about 10% of Fiat Chrysler’s North American production and is known as the “home of minivans,” according to Bloomberg Intelligence Senior Analyst Kevin Tynan. Fiat Chrysler makes its Pacifica minivan, a lower-priced version dubbed the Voyager, and the Chrysler Grand Caravan there.

The automaker also has plants in Etobicoke and Brampton, Ontario, and other operations in Mississauga, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec and Red Deer, Alberta. The Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger and Challenger -- retro muscle cars built on an aging platform -- are made at the Brampton site.

Dias said Fiat Chrysler plans to produce new versions of the muscle cars for each year of the labor agreement.

“We are feeling very comfortable with the fact that our vehicles are loved by consumers,” he said of those models.

Brampton needs more than the Challenger to sustain it over the long term, said Sam Fiorani, vice president at AutoForecast Solutions in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania.

Unifor members will vote on the agreement with Fiat Chrysler on Oct. 18. Following the deals with Ford and Fiat Chrysler, Unifor will next start talks with General Motors Co.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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