Windsor

Auto industry saw record sales, millions of recalls in 2014

Overall auto sales in Canada will top 2.4 million vehicles in 2014, the best since the all-time high of 3 million in 2000. Meanwhile, faulty airbags and ignition switches plagued the automakers.
On the other side of sales success were the thousands upon thousands of recalls — from ignition switches to airbag problems. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

It was a year of recalls and record sales for the auto industry in 2014.

In Canada alone, sales through the first 11 months of the year were just shy of the total sold in all of last year.

"It is a rare occurrence to be just 24,901 units short of last year's overall total in November but here we are," Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants wrote in a note to clients.

Overall auto sales in Canada will top 2.4 million vehicles in 2014, the best since the all-time high of 3 million in the year 2000.

Chrysler, one of Windsor's biggest employers, continued to set records.

"Chrysler will build more vehicles in Canada in 2014 than it did in 2013," said Tony Faria of the office of automotive and vehicle research at the University of Windsor.

Chrysler retooling in Windsor

Chrysler and the provincial and federal governments gave the nearly 5,000 employees of the Windsor Assembly Plant a scare early in 2014 when all parties failed to come to a financial agreement in funding upgrades to the plant.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne intimated upper levels of government had to come to the table with significant funding or risk losing Chrysler production in Ontario.

Chrysler stopped talking investment with the federal and provincial governments  when the issue became, as he called it, "a political football."

Chrysler later confirmed the 2015 model year would be the end of the line for the Grand Caravan but there was some relief when it committed to producing the new Town and Country minivan in Windsor.

Chrysler said in a media release it would "fund out of its own resources whatever capital requirements the Canadian operations require."

The company is spending close to two billion dollars to retool, according to Unifor National president Jerry Dias.

In August, and again in mid-December, Chrysler announced two rounds of open hiring for the first time in more than a decade.

Ford, meanwhile, chose Mexico over Windsor as a location for a new small-engine product, according to Unifor.

The 1.5 billion dollar investment would have brought 1,000 jobs to the  city. Ford insisted Windsor was never really in the running for the new plant.

Millions of recalls

On the other side of success were the thousands upon thousands of recalls — from ignition switches to airbag problems.

At General Motors, the company's first female CEO Mary Barra took the helm just as the companies ignition switch scandal hit high gear.

Over the year, the death toll, the lawsuits, the apologies and the recalls piled up.

Emails released in a court case show that General Motors Co. ordered a half-million replacement ignition switches nearly two months before telling the U.S. government that its small cars should be recalled because the switches were defective.

GM eventually recalled 2.6 million small cars for the problem, which has caused at least 32 deaths.

Sixteen Windsor-area plaintiffs joined a the class action suit through the Sutts, Strosberg Law Firm in Windsor.

"I have made the promise to fix what happened in the company to make sure that we are dedicated to safety that we're dedicated to excellence," Barra said.

On the airbag front, so far, 10 automakers have recalled about 11 million vehicles in the U.S. and about 18 million globally for problems surrounding air bag inflators made by Japanese auto parts supplier Takata Corp.

With files from the Canadian Press

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