Canada to invest up to C$80 million in Ford facilities

Thu Sep 4, 2008 12:01am EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada will offer Ford Canada up to C$80 million ($75 million) over five years to help build facilities that could "create or sustain" some 750 jobs in Windsor, Ontario, Industry Minister Jim Prentice said on Wednesday.

The funding will help Ford carry through plans to reconfigure its Essex engine plant in Windsor into a new flexible engine assembly plant.

The factory currently assembles V8 engines for pickup trucks and SUVs -- vehicles facing slumping sales as North American consumers shift to smaller, more fuel efficient cars because of higher gasoline prices.

Under the new deal, Ford will also set up a center to research engine efficiency and fuel technologies, looking at gasoline, hybrid and alternative fuel powertrains.

"It will also become a key North American in-house center for the advanced testing and R&D in some of the most complex and value-added production added elements in the automotive industry," said Prentice, who announced the plan days before the expected announcement of an October 14 federal election.

Ford had been due to close its current Windsor powertrain engineering research and development center next year, as the equipment has become obsolete.

Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, said the government's announcement was long overdue.

"It's no secret that we've been frustrated by the lack of action, especially from the federal level, as the crisis in the industry got worse and worse -- as we lost tens of thousands of high-productivity jobs and as we lost tens of billions of dollars of exports," Hargrove said.   Continued...