Kathleen Wynne announces nearly $86M Fiat Chrysler funding

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says the nearly $86 million in provincial funding handed out to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will help secure work at the company's Windsor Assembly Plant.

'It's about time for the government stepped in and provided some support'

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says the province is working closely with the federal government to advance the CPP expansion. (Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says the nearly $86 million in provincial funding handed out to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will help secure work at the company's Windsor Assembly Plant. 

Part of the funding, officially announced Wednesday, is to help offset costs associated with a $2.6 billion retooling project needed to accommodate the Chrysler Pacifica minivan. 

The company has said the minivan brought 1,200 jobs to the facility and helped secure the nearly 4,000 existing positions at the Windsor plant.

"It's about time the government stepped in and provided some support. I hope it's only the first [step]," said Tony Faria, the co-director for the centre of automotive and vehicle research at the University of Windsor.

Though the funding comes in at $85.8 million, Faria said the Ontario government spent much less on FCA's expansion compared to other jurisdictions looking for a similar investment.  

"What's been provided so far is much lower than we would normally see in Canada, and certainly it would be incredibly low compared to what we would see in any state in the U.S.," Faria said.

For capital investments — like the retooling at Windsor Assembly Plant — the funding model is 10 per cent federal and 10 per cent provincial, Faria explained. The federal government has not indicated it would provide any funding to Fiat Chrysler for its Windsor operations. 

Despite this, Faria said he hopes this funding acts as an olive branch to the automaker and convinces it to put money into its Brampton, Ont. assembly plant as well.

FCA satisfied with funding

Ray Tanguay, an auto advisor to the Ontario and federal governments, was on hand for the funding announcement. He said he's working to improve relations between the province and automakers.  

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne took a tour of Fiat Chrylser's hot and cold-weather testing facility at Windsor Assembly Plant. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"We're talking about the importance of relationships," Tanguay said. "When you look at competing jurisdictions, the relationships they have with the manufacturers is the most important factor. If we don't have the relationships, we won't win the war."

Wynne made the grant announcement at Fiat Chrysler's R&D facility in Windsor, touring the company's hot and cold weather testing facility.

About $17 million of the grant will be spent on the company's research operations. It's not clear how the money will be spent, but Faria said it will most likely be for green initiatives.

The eight-passenger Chrysler Pacifica minivan will be available in two plug-in hybrid electric models that align with the government's goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change.

FCA Canada President Reid Bigland told reporters he's satisfied with the support the company is receiving. Standing beside Wynne and Economic Development minister Brad Duguid, Bigland said the province can't do more than it already has.

He predicted the Pacifica would be in Canadian showrooms in the fourth quarter of this year.

Wynne also met with Ford Motor Company executive vice president Joseph Hinrichs and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in Detroit.