Ford Motor Co. will establish a research
and development centre in Ottawa as part of a $1.2-billion investment it
will make in its Canadian operations over the next four years.
auto maker made the announcement Thursday in Windsor, Ont., where its
Essex Engine Plant will begin building a new V8 engine, preserving 500
The new research centre in Ottawa will
hire 295 engineers, who will work on developing autonomous and connected
vehicles. Ford will establish satellite engineering centres in
Waterloo, Ont., and Oakville, Ont., site of a Ford assembly plant and
Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. headquarters.
The Ontario and federal governments will contribute $102.4-million each to help finance the projects.
is in a sense where our traditional auto sector meets our new economy
auto sector in a really sweet spot for where you can see Ontario’s auto
sector heading,” said Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Economic
“Ford is preserving its
traditional manufacturing base here [in Windsor], which is great news
considering it’s a plant that a number of years ago was seen by many as
dead and gone,” he said.
The establishment of the centre in Ottawa
is another major boost for automotive research in Ontario, which has
traditionally been a location for vehicle and parts production by the
Canadian units of the Detroit Three auto makers while research and
development for North America was performed almost entirely in Michigan.
Ford research announcement follows the General Motors of Canada Ltd.
plan announced last year to hire about 750 engineers and open a new
research facility in Markham, Ont., that is also focusing on autonomous
and connected vehicles.
Many of the
engineers for the new Ottawa research centre will come from BlackBerry
Ltd., representing most of its remaining smartphone-hardware employees.
No workers will move from BlackBerry’s QNX division, which provides
operating systems for assisted driving and infotainment technology used
“We were able to leverage the
opportunity for a lot of experienced and highly capable BlackBerry
employees to come join Ford with all their QNX operating experience,”
Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas for Ford, said in a telephone
interview from Windsor.
The focus of
the research will be on connectivity, Mr. Hinrichs said. “Having an
engineering centre working on connectivity is really one of the prime
areas of growth in the auto industry.”
also plays a key role in autonomous driving, because vehicles need to
be connected to everything around them so the so-called brains behind
self-driving systems have the correct data and information, he said.
said Ford is not confirming what engine will be allocated to Windsor or
when, but said the announcement reinforced the commitment Ford made to
Unifor during the contract negotiations last fall.
investments in Windsor [are] further evidence of the integrated nature
of our industry,” said Brendan Sweeney, who heads the Automotive Policy
Research Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton. “Things that are
good for Michigan tend to be good for Ontario and vice-versa.”
auto makers and their parts suppliers are spending billions of dollars
developing autonomous and connected vehicles – in part to pre-empt
potential challenges by tech giants Apple Inc. and the Google division
of Alphabet Inc.
Ford agreed during
contract negotiations with Unifor last fall to invest $700-million in
its Canadian operations, which include two engine plants in Windsor and
the assembly plant in Oakville.
Essex engine plant will assemble Ford’s new 7X engine, a 6.9-litre V8
engine that will eventually replace the 6.8-litre V10 engine that is now
offered as an option on Ford’s best-selling vehicles, its full-sized
pickup trucks, industry sources familiar with Ford's plans said.