Windsor 'very important' in Ford's future, says new CEO

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Windsor Star/Doug Schmidt

Despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s talk of import tariffs and “America First” economic policies, the new head of Ford Motor Company of Canada said his company still sees this country as a place to spend and grow.

“Our plans are to stay invested in Canada,” Mark Buzzell said in a phone interview with the Star from the opening of the Canadian International Autoshow in Toronto.

Buzzell reconfirmed Thursday that Ford has a $600-million investment coming to its Windsor engine plants and research and development facilities.

“We’ve made a really big commitment to our Canadian operations,” he said.

That’s not about to change given the “many interdependencies” in the automotive sector on both sides of the border in the Great Lakes region, he added.


Ford’s global operations, he said, purchase $4 billion in vehicle parts manufactured annually in Canada.

As for specifically what new engine product or products might be coming to Windsor — and when that investment will be made — Buzzell was coy, saying only that details will be made public “in the near future.” Pestered further, he added: “It should definitely be this calendar year.”

Windsor already produces engines for Ford’s iconic Mustang and top-selling F-Series pickups. But Unifor was worried about the future of its 2,000 Windsor Ford members when it made a new local investment a priority in last year’s contract talks.

“Canada is very important to us … Windsor is very important to us, absolutely,” Buzzell said.

Buzzell, with Ford since 1989 and most recently the general manager for the western market in the United States, took over on Jan. 1 from Dianne Craig.

Craig, now U.S. director of sales for Ford Motor Company, headed the Canadian operations for five years, a period in which Ford remained the country’s best-selling automotive brand.

As part of the new labour agreements last year between Unifor and the Detroit Three, Ford agreed to invest $713 million in its Canadian operations, the bulk of that new spending in Windsor.

Asked whether the company expects the provincial and federal governments to come to the table with public support as part of that new corporate stake, Buzzell replied: “We have a really good relationship with the federal government and with the provincial government, and we share common goals.”

In a phone interview with the Star Thursday, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains said Ottawa has “made it very clear” to the automotive companies that “we want to be a partner.”

Asked whether Ford has made any specific requests so far, Bains said he is “still in conversation with the company at this stage.”

Buzzell said there will be a research and development component to the company’s Windsor investment, and Bains said the federal Liberal government is “committed to an innovation agenda … part of that is innovation in the auto sector.”

Ottawa signalled last month it was reversing a long-standing policy of providing taxable loans through its Automotive Innovation Fund for automakers looking to invest in Canada and shifting toward grant-based incentives.

The same week he was visiting Detroit’s auto show, Bains — who began his working career at Ford — was in Windsor to announce $3 million toward a $9-million research and development program at aluminum engine block supplier Nemak of Canada Corp.