A decision by Ford Motor Co. to cancel a $1.6-billion investment in Mexico and instead add 700 new jobs at a Michigan assembly plant is "encouraging" news, says the president of the union representing Ford workers in Windsor-Essex.
On Tuesday, the automaker announced the $700-million expansion at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant and provided details on seven of the 13 electrified vehicles it plans to introduce over the next five years.
"It's encouraging," said Chris Taylor, president of Unifor Local 200. "Obviously, any time we can pull investment from a lower-cost jurisdiction back to North America, where our typical competitors are…it's very encouraging to us."
Taylor said the decision to invest in the United States has "a lot to do" with U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's criticism of the company's plans to build the plant in Mexico.
"I think our politicians on this side of the border ought to pay attention," Taylor said, adding that the cost of a new plant in Mexico would have come with a price tag more than double the cost of expanding in Flat Rock, which likely also played a role in Ford's decision as well.
The union leader said the investment across the border won't have any immediate impact on Ford workers in Windsor and Essex, but said he's still waiting to see what power train the new hybrid Mustang will have.
"Our Essex engine plant makes five-litre engines for both Mustangs and the F-150," he explained. "We're hoping that our engine will be part of the hybrid variation, so we're not on the losing side of this."
One group that is sure to benefit from the announcement is local parts producers, who are located much closer to Michigan than Mexico, said Taylor.
"When you look at the auto corridor between Ontario, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, the parts suppliers in those areas will do very well with any announcement of expansion or investment," he said, pointing to possibilities including just-in-time deliveries. "This should be very, very positive and good news for our parts suppliers on both sides of the border."
Autonomous and electric vehicles
According to Ford, the expansion will create "700 direct new jobs" building autonomous and electric vehicles as well as the Mustang and Lincoln Continental.
"I am thrilled that we have been able to secure additional UAW-Ford jobs for American workers," Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president at National Ford Department said in a statement. "The men and women of Flat Rock Assembly have shown a great commitment to manufacturing quality products."
Taylor said comments from Ford's president and chief executive officer, Mark Fields — about the importance of investing in America — should also send a message to Canadian leaders.
"They should be actively promoting…and letting these companies know that they're open for business and, unfortunately, we haven't heard that message on this side of the border as we have over in the U.S. now," Taylor said.