Auto factories in Canada shutting down due to lack of parts from bridge blockade

Automakers in Canada are cutting some production lines and bracing for continued disruptions as convoy blockades at U.S. border crossings worsen an industry-wide parts shortage.

Ambassador Bridge is vital supply link for parts needed on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

A protester holds a Canadian flag at a demonstration blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., on Wednesday. Every day, more than $300 million worth of goods travels over the bridge, including large amounts of car parts. (Galit Rodan/Bloomberg)

Automakers in Canada and the U.S. are scaling back production on both sides of the border as ongoing blockades at border crossings are making it impossible for them to find enough parts and components.

Shipping delays are rippling through the economy amid ongoing protests against COVID-19 measures that have idled Canada-bound traffic on the Ambassador Bridge linking Windsor, Ont., and Detroit.

Ford Canada is running its plants in Oakville, Ont., and Windsor at reduced capacity, while facilities on the U.S. side have enough components to keep going — for now.

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"We hope this situation is resolved quickly because it could have widespread impact on all automakers in the U.S. and Canada," a spokesperson for the company told CBC News in a statement.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada says all three of its lines in Canada have been impacted and that its facilities in Cambridge and Woodstock, Ont. — which build the Toyota RAV4 SUV, along with Lexus models the RX 350 and the RX 450h — are likely to remain idled for at least the rest of the week.

"We expect disruptions through the weekend, and we'll continue to make adjustments as needed," the company told CBC News in a statement. "While the situation is fluid and changes frequently, we do not anticipate any impact to employment at this time."

Honda briefly suspended production at its facility at Alliston, Ont., on Wednesday, and on Thursday evening the company said it planned to temporarily suspend one production line on Friday. "We are monitoring the disruption of transportation between Canada and the U.S. and will adjust production as necessary," the company said in a statement.

Stellantis, which makes Chrysler minivans at a plant in Windsor, cut production at two shifts on Tuesday before starting them up again on Wednesday.

"Owing to the integrated nature of the automotive industry, U.S. assembly plants are also being adversely impacted by a shortage of parts from Canada," industry group the Global Automakers of Canada said in a tweet Thursday.

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Dave Cassidy, president of the Local 444 of the United Auto Workers union, which represents workers at Stellantis's factory in Windsor, says something must be done. 

"Our whole economy … depends on that bridge being open," he told CBC News in an interview.

"If these lines don't run and the workers are sent home, then these working families unfortunately become collateral damage to the protest that's going on at the bridge," he said.

The temporary production outages come as carmakers grapple with other pandemic-related supply chain challenges, including a semiconductor shortage that has hampered the new car market.

The backlogged Ambassador Bridge — the busiest crossing in North America — typically handles about 7,000 commercial vehicles a day carrying goods traded between Canada and the United States.

More than $300 million worth of goods normally pass over the century-old bridge every day, about $50 million of which are car parts.