Windsor

Ontario won't renew $14,000 incentive that could apply to Chrysler Pacifica

Ford government bucks calls from Unifor, opposition to reinstate electric vehicle rebate.

The electric and hydrogen vehicle incentive program was scrapped shortly after the provincial election

NDP leader Andrea Horwath asks PC minister Todd Smith about scrapped electric vehicle incentive program. 1:09

The Ontario government is defending its 2018 decision to cancel an incentive program the NDP said would have made the Windsor-built Chrysler Pacifica more affordable.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced last week it will lay off 1,500 people at the Windsor Assembly Plant to "better align production with global demand."

Last July, the Ford government ended an Ontario program that offered up to $14,000 back for people buying electric and hydrogen vehicles.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath questioned the PC government's decision in Queen's Park on Monday.

"They've ignored industry experts that said this will hurt sales and now they're reaping what they sowed," said Horwath. 

Government working with auto makers

Todd Smith, the minister of economic development, job creation and trade, responded with a strong defence of the government's decision.

"We don't believe that the government should be paying for people's vehicles," said Smith, in response to Horwath's question. 

The layoffs affect about 1,500 people with low seniority or who work on the third shift. CBC Windsor News at 6 host Arms Bumanlag spoke to two sisters who may both lose their jobs.

Brenda Lucier, centre, and Holly Lucier talk about what it was like finding out they might lose their job in September. 2:29

Smith said his government has been in constant communication with auto makers like FCA to create policy that encourages job growth.

"We've been doing everything that we can to make sure that Ontario is open for business and open for jobs and that includes jobs in the auto sector."

Federal government announced rebate

The NDP criticized the federal government's budget for including a rebate that did not apply to the Chrysler Pacifica and called on them to include the vehicle in the program.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after FCA announced the layoffs, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced that the Pacifica will be eligible for the $5,000 rebate.

Both Bains and the head of the union that represents that 1,500 laid off employees called on the Ontario government to bring back the incentive.

"The onus is on Premier Ford to step up, and not only fight for the environment, but fight for the economy and jobs," Bains said on Friday.

Sales up and down

FCA Canada's March sales numbers put the Pacifica in a slump, with only 304 sold in March 2019. The year prior, almost 900 Pacifics were sold in March — a 66 per cent decrease. 

On the other hand, Caravan sales were up 13 per cent. In absolute numbers, that means FCA sold 11 times more Caravans than Pacificas. 

Sales consultant Rick McKinney says getting rid of the $14,000 definitely hurt the sales of the Pacifica.

Rick McKinney, sales consultant at Motor City Chrysler said the next six months will reveal some big changes — with a lot hinging on if Unifor and FCA can add another product to the assembly line. 

McKinney said getting rid of the $14,000 definitely hurt the sales of the Pacifica, but his "guesstimate" is that bringing it back would boost Pacifica sales by about 10 to 15 per cent. 

About 60 per cent of McKinney's sales come from FCA employees or their families, but that those people typically purchase Dodge Rams or Cherokees. 

"Utility vehicles are up there," said McKinney. "We need something to bring them back in. Families want vans."

According to McKinney, if FCA lowered the price of the Pacifica sales would be "overwhelming" and the electric vehicle rebate would help bring the price down to a more accessible level.

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