A move by the Ford Motor Co. to assemble engines capable of running on propane or natural gas in Windsor is securing current jobs but isn't enough to provide jobs for the future, a local union leader says.
A company spokesperson confirmed to CBC News the facility is assembling the 5.0-litre, V8 engine outfitted for propane or natural gas, which will be installed in F-150 pickup trucks.
Ford says it is the only automotive manufacturer to offer a half-ton pickup capable of running off compressed natural gas or propane.
It reports selling more than 60,000 vehicles outfitted to run on natural gas or propane since 2009.
The company did not provide any numbers on how many of these engines have been built in Windsor.
"It's a fully converted engine which will be shipped to our plants in the United States," said Chris Taylor, the president of Unifor Local 200, which represents workers at the plant.
The production process is similar to traditional gas engines Taylor said, but there are additional components designed to work with natural gas or propane.
"It gives us more flexibility and security on our current five-litre program and it's obviously going to be good for customers with the F-150," Taylor said.
'This doesn't satisfy us'
But Taylor said this engine is not enough since it won't be bringing in any new jobs. About 850 people currently work at the plant.
"This doesn't satisfy us in any shape or form to say that we've received new product," Taylor said. "We appreciate the fact Ford has brought in the option, that gives us some job security, but we're looking for new product at this site."
Taylor said production of the propane and natural gas engines began at the Essex plant in October 2015. Before that, the facility retrofitted gasoline engines to either propane or natural gas.
Tony Faria, an automotive researcher at the University of Windsor, said the propane engine is good news for Ford's presence in Windsor, but it's not really a cause for celebration.
Propane engines aren't produced in a high volume and it doesn't appear the industry will move towards mass-producing them any time soon, he said.
In addition, Faria explained the big eight-cylinder engines built in Windsor don't fit in with Ford's plans for smaller, more fuel-efficient products.
"It's never bad news to get a product, but what we really need is a commitment to a smaller engine," Faria said. "[Essex Engine Plant needs] a new product, what they need is something like the Ford Fiesta engine that will be built in Mexico."