Magna International to expand Ontario operations to make battery enclosures for Ford F-150 Lightning
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Mar 30, 2022
Emma Jarratt

The auto parts supplier giant is expanding its existing Formet Industries operations with the construction of a new, $50-million, 170,000-square-foot facility in the city of Chatham

Autoparts supplier, Magna International, is expanding operations Canada with an additional facility in Chatham, Ontario.

The auto parts supplier giant is expanding its existing Formet Industries operations with the construction of a new, $50-million, 170,000-square-foot facility in the city of Chatham

Canadian auto parts supplier, Magna International, is teaming up with automaker Ford to build ultra lightweight aluminium battery enclosures for the automaker’s F-150 Lightning electric pick-up truck.

Magna, headquartered in Aurora, Ont., is a multi-billion dollar parts supplier to the automotive industry with over 158,000 employees worldwide. Its new battery enclosure plant, which will create 150 jobs, will be built in Chatham, though the plant will be an extension of Magna’s Formet Industries, which currently operates two existing facilities roughly an hour away in St. Thomas.

Battery enclosures are the cases that surround the electric pickup truck’s high voltage battery modules, sensors, connectors and electrical components, which require protection from heat, water and impact.

“With the hard work of our team members in our Formet, St. Thomas facility, we have been able to secure additional business that allows us to grow in two great communities,” said Mark Johnson, Magna’s Formet Industries general manager in a press release.  “We are coming to Chatham with new job opportunities working on an exciting new technology that offers a lot of growth potential.”  

Magna says the lightweight aluminum construction of its battery enclosures is “game changing” and that these will be the largest casings on the market.

Committing to electrification

Magna has moved heavily into EVs across its business as the transition to electric mobility — for both battery and hydrogen vehicles — has picked up. In addition to boosting its parts manufacturing for EVs in North America, last year Magna signed a deal with Fisker to produce the automaker’s battery electric Ocean SUV in Austria, which is targeted to begin later this year.

Additionally, Magna’s March 2022 annual filings contain key details about how the company views its position in the rapidly transitioning automotive sector, as well as some hints about plans for the future.

Overall, the company says it is in the black with most of its manufacturing. The potential areas of decline, Magna anticipates, will be felt in fuel tanks, manual transmission, four wheel drive and all-wheel drive power trains.

Anticipating a contraction in these markets, Magna says in its report, that it is heavily investing in the following key areas:

  • completing our joint venture transaction with LG Electronics to manufacture e-motors, inverters, on-board chargers, and, for some customers, complete e-drive systems;
  • winning two additional integrated e-drive programs, including both primary and secondary drive systems;
  • being awarded a new program from Daimler for a family of dual-clutch transmissions, including both traditional and hybrid variants; and
  • launching the company’s first battery enclosures business for General Motors on a new electric vehicle model.

Magna’s battery enclosures will appear in the GM electric Hummer, which is slated to arrive in Canada at the end of this year, specifies the annual report, and will be built in its new facility in St. Clair, Mich.

In addition to making components for EVs, Magna is also working on a retrofit of internal combustion power trains in pickup and light-duty commercial trucks that would convert them to electric. The EtelligentForce system will be produced in Troy, Mich., and won’t be available until 2025.

“EtelligentForce comes at a pivotal time — particularly in the North American auto industry where pickup trucks are at their height of popularity and one of the last segments to become fully electric,” said Magna Powertrain president Tom Rucker in a press release. “The beauty of this powerful BEV system is that it delivers the environmental benefits of an electric powertrain while maintaining the capability and utility of conventional ¾-ton and 1-ton trucks.” 

Canada collecting EV investments

Magna’s new Chatham factory is the latest in a string of EV-related investments in the Canadian EV battery supply chain.

In 2021, Quebec was announced as the location of battery cell manufacturing facilities for both Ontario-based StromVolt and U.K.-based Britishvolt. This year, German chemical giant BASF announced it will manufacture cathode active material (CAM) in Quebec, followed quickly by GM and South Korea-based Posco also committing to a CAM facility in Quebec under a joint venture.

This past February, U.S.-based Flex-N-Gate said it will set up a $20-million R&D facility in Windsor. And earlier this month, Stellantis and South Korea’s LG Chem revealed their plans to build a $5-billion dollar battery plant in Windsor.

Magna’s Chatham factory construction will involve retrofitting the defunct Crown Metal Packaging plant in that city.

“As Chatham-Kent continues to grow, we’re thrilled that Magna has chosen our community to grow alongside. This investment is excellent news for the people of Chatham-Kent; it’s creating great jobs, in a rapidly growing industry, with a fantastic and very well-established company and goes to show our community’s commitment to supporting investment in innovative manufacturing,” said Mayor Darrin Canniff in press materials.

Magna says production at the factory is slated to begin this fall. The first F-150 Lightnings are slated to hit the market this spring.

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