British Columbia·Q&A

Ford Canada CEO says more work needs to be done on electric vehicles

In an interview with On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko, Dianne Craig said new free trade agreements should help Canada's auto sector.

CEO Dianne Craig says only 1 per cent of vehicle sales in Canada are electric today

Ford Motor Company of Canada CEO Dianne Craig says only one per cent of the industry sales in B.C. are fully electric. ((Bruce Reeve/CBC))

The B.C. government announced almost $1 million in funding for electric vehicle infrastructure on Wednesday.

The government, which made the announcement at the Vancouver International Auto Show, said the funding will go towards rebates on car chargers in multi-unit residences and upgrades to 10 public charging stations.

The automotive industry has largely staked its future on electric vehicles — and Ford is no different.

Ford Motor Company of Canada president and CEO Dianne Craig spoke with On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko about how electric vehicles fit into her company's future.

What does the provincial government's announcement mean for the adoption of electric cars?

We really appreciate the B.C. government's support. About one per cent of the industry sales in Canada, and it's the same for British Columbia, are electric vehicles, and when you add in the electric plug-ins, it's about two per cent. We have more work to do and the added infrastructure investment is going to be a big help.

What responsibility do automakers have to invest in electric car infrastructure?

At Ford we are investing $4.5 billion in electric vehicles over the next five years. We're going to introduce 13 new models, 40 per cent of our lineup is not only going to have a gas engine but also certainly the option of electric or hybrid or plug-in hybrid. So we've put a huge investment into this space. But the infrastructure is going to be a piece as well so it's a collection of key stakeholders coming together, policymakers, business leaders to invest in this technology and certainly make a contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Dianne Craig delivers a speech as the company celebrates the global production start of the 2015 Ford Edge at the Oakville, Ont. plant. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Ford has closed four Canadian plants over the past 12 years. Increasingly, your cars are made in places like Mexico and China and Vietnam. How committed are you to making your cars in this country?

I continue to advocate for manufacturing in Canada. But the reality is over the past 15 years, the jobs related to autos have gone down 50,000 jobs. The reality is, we're losing those investments to the U.S. and Mexico. Canada is at a serious inflection point in 2016. We've got to change the conversation and compete from a manufacturing standpoint.

What impact does the extra low Canadian dollar have on your ability to compete on the international market?

Certainly the lower Canadian dollar does help, but when we look at auto investments, it's on a 10-year horizon. There are really three areas we look at: it's labour costs — we have a great relationship with our Unifor partners to make sure we have a competitive labour agreement — it's government incentives and government incentives — the reality is jurisdictions all across the globe, including Canada and the U.S. have really done a lot to attract the investment by offering very, very attractive incentives — and the third piece is trade agreements. We're really excited by the Europe free trade agreement with Canada. We're shipping out of Oakville to 100 countries and we're starting to ship to Europe in December as well.

With files from On The Coast

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Ford of Canada CEO talks electric vehicles, commitment to Canada


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