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Ford unveils Edge ST in Oakville, solidifies future of Canadian auto industry, union says

A new vehicle will be assembled in Oakville, Ont., by Ford Motor Company of Canada, which the union says signals the automaker's commitment to the future of Canada's auto industry.

'This is a signal that Ford understands the importance of the Canadian operation,' Unifor president says

Ford Motor Company is unveiling its new Edge ST line that will be made at its assembly plant in Oakville, Ont., and exported to 100 countries. (The Canadian Press)

A new vehicle will be assembled in Oakville, Ont., by Ford Motor Company of Canada, a move the union says signals the automaker's commitment to the future of Canada's auto industry.  

Ford Motor Company of Canada has redesigned the Edge as a sport performance crossover SUV made for global export from Oakville, Ont., with the line starting work this summer. 

"We will be producing the smartest and most advanced Edge ever," said Gonzalo Contreras, marketing manager for crossovers and SUV's at Ford Motor Company. 

Ford plans to export the vehicle that features an array of smart technology to 100 countries from the Ontario plant in 2019.  

"It just proves that we are committed to the plant by bringing this new version of the Edge," said Christine Hollander, spokesperson for Ford Canada. 

Ford is 'very committed' to Canada: Dias

The move comes while Canada and U.S. trade relations are on uncertain footing.

CBC News has learned the Canadian government is preparing for the possibility U.S. President Donald Trump could soon signal his intent to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Despite those preparations for a possible pullout, Mark Buzzell, president and CEO of Ford Canada, promised the company's financial commitment to auto manufacturing in Canada will not waver.

The move comes more than a year since Ford pledged $1.2 billion over four years to retool its plants in southern Ontario and establish a research and engineering centre in Ottawa.

The decision was part of a new contract deal negotiated between the automaker and Unifor in November 2016 and pegged $700 million for its assembly plants in Windsor and Oakville.

Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, says the investment solidifies the future of Canada's auto industry and is the result of hard-fought labour negotiations with the automaker. 

"Clearly Ford is very committed to the Canadian operation," he said.

"This is a signal that Ford understands the importance of the Canadian operation, recognizes the value of the Canadian dollar. Ford knows Canada is a good place to do business." 

1st investment in Oakville plant: Dias

This is the first time Ford has invested in operations at the Oakville assembly plant since the $1.2-billion deal was signed, he said, noting that 85 per cent of the funds have already gone toward creating and maintaining almost 800 jobs at Ford's Essex Engine Plant in Windsor. 

"It's about taking the next step. It's really about investing in the latest technology and playing with the latest technology, so it's a big deal," he told CBC Toronto. "The announcement today is a signal that they're planning to hang around for the long-term."   

Unifor represents about 5,000 workers in Oakville. While the new Edge ST won't create more jobs, Dias explains it's too early to know how it will impact job security. 

"I'm positive and I'm confident because nobody makes these types of investments lightly," he said. "I'm pleased with the opportunities it's creating in Oakville."

The automaker first expanded production of the Edge in Canada three years ago after the country signed a free trade deal with the European Union allowing it to build the SUV for the European market. 

The Oakville assembly plant, first opened in 1953, also produces the Ford Flex, Ford Edge, Lincoln MKT and Lincoln MKX.

The Ford Flex will be phased out of production by 2020.