Speaking to reporters amid meetings with Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, federal industry minister François-Philippe Champagne says “decarbonization” of Canada’s supply chain is a key selling point
Federal industry minister François-Philippe Champagne says last week’s announcement by Volkswagen Group that it is seeking a Canadian location for its first battery cell gigafactory in North America marks “a watershed moment” for Canada’s automotive industry.
Speaking from Germany a day before wrapping up his latest round of meetings with Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, Champagne stressed that while Volkswagen CEO Oliver Blume described Canada as “one logical option” for its North American battery factory in last week’s announcement, “I would say that Canada is the preferred destination for their battery plant.”
“I don’t think they would invite the minister of industry of Canada with 400 of their top managers” if this wasn’t VW’s intent, Champagne says.
In his prepared remarks and in response to questions from reporters, Champagne described the current interest in Canada on the part of Germany’s leading automakers as unprecedented.
“You would have to go back decades to even find a time when the German manufacturers are considering Canada the way they’re doing now, if ever,” he says.
Greening the supply chain
On Monday, Champagne says he met with the management team at Mercedes-Benz for almost an hour in response to the company’s invitation.
“There was one item on the agenda and it was Canada, so that just tells you how relevant we have become.”
In response to a question from Electric Autonomy Canada, Champagne noted the focus of the conversation was how Canada can support Mercedes’ vision of greening its supply chain.
“Their vision is to produce cars which would be carbon-free by 2039. And my pitch to them is, ‘How can I be part of that solution?’ … I tell them the journey we have traveled. We have decarbonized steel, aluminum. I want to produce green batteries. I want to produce green microchips. I’m looking at renewable plastics. The types of things you would need in cars.”
Champagne’s final stop on this trip was a meeting at BMW headquarters on Tuesday, with a similar aim of “trying to entice them to do more” with Canada.
“Everyone has seen the fact that Bloomberg now ranks Canada second for its battery ecosystem behind China and ahead of the United States. They’ve seen what we’ve done with Volkswagen for sure,” he says.
At a broader level, Champagne says his discussions in Europe, and those also held recently with automakers in Japan and South Korea, are reaffirming the strength of Canada’s overall supply chain as the industry is looking to decarbonize.
“When you think about decarbonization, Canada comes first in your mind. I think that is going to pay dividends throughout the supply chain that we have built in Canada.”