Ford promises 'huge' investment in Windsor, Ont., auto plant after shift cuts

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province and federal governments will be making a "huge" investment in a Windsor, Ont., auto assembly plant to help ramp up production after the company announced a shift cut.

Stellantis, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, announced last week that it will cut its Windsor Assembly Plant down to one shift next spring in a move that will mean about 1,800 lost jobs.

The company says the move comes as the automotive industry faces significant headwinds including the semiconductor shortage and the effects of COVID-19.

The cut from two shifts comes after Stellantis cut the third shift at the minivan plant in 2020 at a loss of about 1,500 jobs.

Ford, speaking near Windsor on Monday, says he wants to see three shifts again at the plant, and he will be speaking with Stellantis leadership on Tuesday.

The premier was not able to offer details on the investment, but said between both levels of government it's "hundreds of millions" of dollars.

Stellantis has reaffirmed its commitment in a 2020 collective agreement with the local Unifor union to spend upwards of $1.5 billion at the plant.

The Windsor plant produces the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager and Chrysler Grand Caravan.

Ford also spoke of his interest in having a battery facility in Windsor.

"We have all the natural resources, we have the lithium, we have the nickel, we have the cobalt, folks, everything is here," he said.

"We don't need to bring these batteries in from overseas. We have everything here. On top of that we have the best workforce anywhere in the world ... Any people out there that are listening that want to expand in Ontario, especially the battery business, we'll be at your front doorstep and we'll be ready to make a deal with you."

But opposition members think the premier should have been more proactive.

“I don’t think there was really a plan today when the premier said what he said,” said Lisa Gretzky, the MPP for Windsor West. “I think simply he is trying to do damage control and look like they have been engaged all along with the auto and manufacturing sector when the reality is that’s not what’s happening.”

Gretzky echoed calls from her federal counterpart Brian Masse for a made-in-Ontario auto strategy to increase manufacturing in this jurisdiction before more jobs are lost.

“Our community and communities like ours across the province can’t keep doing this. It’s not sustainable. This is a huge huge blow to our community.”

- With files from CTV Windsor's Rich Garton