By Solarina Ho
TORONTO Feb 13 Chrysler Group LLC is
more than halfway toward making a deal with the Canadian
government on a proposed multibillion-dollar investment to
upgrade its two Ontario facilities, including its minivan
assembly plant in Windsor, its top executive said on Thursday.
Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive officer of Fiat
Chrysler Automobiles Group (FCA), had previously said the
decision hinged on economic incentives from Canada and the
province of Ontario.
Chrysler's proposal would be the single largest investment
made by any automaker in Canada since before the financial
crisis, Marchionne said, and would also be the largest
investment by the company since Fiat helped to rescue Chrysler
from bankruptcy in 2009.
"We're not even close to a resolution of a proposal that is
acceptable to us," Marchionne told reporters at the opening of
the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, adding that he
thought they were "over 50 percent" of the way toward making a
Marchionne would not confirm the investment amount being
discussed, but said it would cost at least $2 billion to build a
completely brand-new multi-vehicle assembly platform at the
Windsor is Chrysler's only minivan assembly operation and
Marchionne said the proposed investment would mean the jobs at
that plant would have "substantial longevity" if market demand
remained in place.
Representatives in other countries, including the United
States and Mexico, have already approached the automaker in
hopes of luring its minivan business away from Canada, he said.
The amount other jurisdictions would offer are likely more
than what would be offered from a Canadian proposal, he added.
Marchionne, who moved to Canada from Italy at the age of 14,
said he is hoping to keep his minivan business in Canada.
"I am Canadian. ... I'm not confused about that issue. So
I'll do a variety of things for this place that will twist me
into a pretzel, but you can't put me over a barrel," he said.
"I just want a level playing field. If the prime minister
can guarantee me that at the end of the day, we will not be
subject to non-trade barriers, then I'll be fine."
Marchionne noted that of the $42 billion invested into North
American auto production in the last five years, only five
percent went to Canada.
"There's got to be something structural that is making this
jurisdiction less appealing than others," he said, adding that
it was crucial that Canada preserve and defend its manufacturing
The federal government indicated on Wednesday that it might
offer cash to keep Chrysler from moving the Windsor operation
The comments followed the Canadian government's budget
announcement earlier this week. It included a promise to infuse
the Automotive Innovation Fund with an additional C$500 million
($455.15 million) over the next two years to subsidize the
country's auto sector, which has seen its share of North
American production decline.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Wednesday that not all
of the new money is meant to meet Chrysler's "substantial"
Unifor, Canada's main auto union, represents about 4,500
hourly assembly plant workers in Windsor. They assemble about
1,500 Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans
over three shifts each day, or one minivan every 44 seconds,
according to Unifor Local 444 President Dino Chiodo.
Chrysler is also seeking money for its other Canadian plant
in Brampton, Ontario, which builds cars including the Chrysler
300 and Dodge Challenger.