Chrysler Portal Concept Vehicle. Source: FCA
Chrysler Portal Concept Vehicle. Source: FCA. It’s not yet clear which models will be produced in Ontario.

Successful contract talks mean Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor assembly plant will undergo a multi-vehicle platform makeover, with plug-in and battery electric vehicle manufacturing starting in 2024

For the second time in three weeks, a major North American automaker has unveiled a multi-billion-dollar investment to manufacture electric vehicles in Canada. Today’s news comes by way of a joint deal between Unifor and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), announced Thursday morning by union president Jerry Dias in Toronto.

Unifor and FCA Leaders exchange documents
FCA Canada Head of Human Resources Jacqueline Oliva (Right) and Unifor National President Jerry Dias (Left) Source: FCA

The $1.3-to-$1.5-billion investment will bring “stability” to FCA’s Canadian operations, Dias said, and could result in the addition of as many as 2,000 jobs as part of a three-year collective agreement. The new workers will begin to come on in 2023 as the manufacturer retools to accommodate production of both a plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicle. At least one additional new model will be added in 2025.

“This is, I will argue, a home run for the community of Windsor,” Dias added, calling the deal the “best economic agreement” to be struck there in at least 20 years.

EV and battery mandates a priority

It’s also a home run for proponents of electric vehicles, coming on the heels of a $2-billion deal between Unifor, Ford Motor Co. of Canada and the Ontario and federal governments to build EVs in Oakville.

Dias and Unifor have clearly made EV manufacturing mandates and battery manufacturing central to the current round of contract negotiations with the “Big Three” automakers and at least two have been ready to pivot.

The Windsor plant currently employs over 4,600 workers, FCA employs over 9,000 in the province and Unifor has over 20,000 auto industry members in Canada.

Under the new deal the Windsor plant will have two platforms: one for manufacturing Pacifica and Voyager minivans and the other, launching in 2024, for a new plug-in hybrid or EV model.

The Ford deal for in Oakville, meanwhile, will see the plant transition to a battery electric vehicle facility in 2024 with five new EVs being produced by 2028. Industry experts speculate the Ford deal set the tone for Unifor’s talks with FCA.

Deal at the deadline

News of the FCA deal was announced late Wednesday with just 10 minutes to spare before a midnight strike deadline. The Windsor plant, which accounts for 10 per cent of FCA’s North American production, has already been shutdown for three weeks due to scheduled downtime.

The agreement also includes investments in FCA’s plants in Brampton and Toronto, assuring stability for those operations as well.

FCA will be supplying the majority of the financial investment, but Dias said the company is still in talks with both the province and Ottawa for some financial support. Both of those governments contributed $295 million each to help seal the Ford deal.

Now it’s up to the FCA workers to decide the fate of the tentative labour agreement with a ratification process to be conducted over the weekend. Unifor will then turn its attention to negotiation with GM, the last the Big Three OEMs.