Stellantis announces production of electric vehicles at Brampton plant; multibillion dollar investment secures thousands of jobs in the city

·7 min read

Built in the 1980s by American Motors and now in the hands of Stellantis, Brampton’s sprawling assembly plant on Williams Parkway had held a contract with its 3,163 unionized workers to assemble three gas-powered Dodge and Chrysler cars until the end of 2023. Thereafter, its future remained uncertain.

Every day the Dodge Chargers and Challengers rolled off the line, the classically inspired American muscle cars that guzzle increasingly expensive gas reminded workers that what they were making was out of step with the green transition sweeping their industry.

It meant their future was up in the air.

On Monday, everything changed.

Stellantis, one of the city’s biggest employers, announced it will be installing a flexible assembly line capable of producing battery-electric and hybrid vehicles at their Brampton plant, returning to a three-shift operation.

The announcement on May 2 follows advocacy by City Hall representatives for a contract past 2023 and a strong desire to see Brampton transition to battery-electric cars, with sales of the gas-powered models assembled at the local assembly plant stalling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the announcement, Stellantis said its overhaul is expected to diversify the automaker’s capacity to meet growing consumer demand for low-emission vehicles.

“Brampton is going to be transformed, fully modernized and beginning in 2024, when production resumes beginning at ‘25, the plant is going to introduce all new flexible architecture to support the company’s EV plans including full battery electric vehicles,” said Mark Stewart, Stellantis’ chief operating officer for North America. “In addition, Brampton will return to a three-shift operation.”

The Brampton Assembly Plant won’t be the only one changing, with the Windsor Stellantis factory modernizing its automotive research and development centre as part of a provincial commitment of $287 million, with a matching investment from the federal government. Similar to Brampton, the Windsor operation will be converted to multi-energy vehicle assembly. Together, the production changes to the two Ontario facilities are part of a $3.6 billion operating investment by Stellantis.

The Brampton plant will be receiving a provincial commitment of $132 million, with a matching investment from the federal government. In total, the company’s operations in both cities will receive a little more than $1 billion from the two levels of government, with Ottawa contributing slightly more than half that amount.

“Today’s announcement shows how important it is that unions, governments and industry come together to protect automotive manufacturing jobs and keep Canadian manufacturing strong,” said Danny Price, president for Unifor Local 1285. “The hard working, dedicated people at the Brampton Assembly Plant take pride in building some of the highest quality, best-selling vehicles in their class. Now, we can also be proud of playing a critical role in Canada’s electric vehicle transition for years to come.”

Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the announcement in Windsor Monday.

“Together we’re making Ontario the leading jurisdiction for electric vehicles, from research to development, to rolling off assembly lines. It’s all happening right here in Windsor,” Ford said.

Ford said his government has helped revive the auto sector’s presence in Ontario since he took office. Critics have pointed to PC policies that have hurt both the future of the rapidly greening industry in the province and efforts to curtail harmful GHG emissions.

After taking office in 2018, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government led by Ford scrapped the rebate program for zero-emission vehicles as well as the requirement for new homes to include wiring for future electric vehicle chargers and provincial charging stations. Data from statistics Canada showed Ontario’s decision to scrap the rebate tanked sales.

Green cars registered in Ontario increased from 8,180 in 2017 to 16,758 in 2018, then decreased to 9,762 in 2019, and increased slightly to 10,515 in 2020, following Ford’s decision to cancel the popular provincial subsidy for EVs.

In March, the province announced $91 million in funding toward installing electric vehicle chargers at highway rest stops, carpool parking lots, parks and hockey arenas. Additionally, the government announced a $5 billion investment to build Ontario’s first large-scale electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor as a joint venture between LG Energy Solution and Stellantis. Production is slated to begin in 2024.

The announcement answers a number of questions about the future of automotive production in Brampton, but raises many more.

Stellantis stated in a press release that the investment is aimed at accelerating “the company’s move to a sustainable future. This announcement also supports the company’s Dare Forward 2030 strategic plan and its long-term electrification strategy to invest $45 billion CAD ($35 billion USD) through 2025 in electrification and software globally.”

It means the Dodge and Chrysler models made in Brampton will either need an EV update or a significant sales justification to remain viable in the company’s green transformation.

“These investments reaffirm our long-term commitment to Canada and represent an important step as we move toward zero-emission vehicles that deliver on our customers’ desire for innovative, clean, safe and affordable mobility,” Stewart said.

While Brampton employees finally got the answer they were desperate for, that the plant (after a major facelift) will be a part of the parent company’s longer-term plans, the future of the Dodge Charger and Challenger and the Chrysler 300 is unclear.

Sales figures don’t offer much hope for those car lovers who are big fans of the models.

Dodge Challenger sales in the U.S., the primary market for muscle cars, peaked in 2015, with 66,365 sold, compared to last year when 54,315 were sold south of the border.

The Charger has seen sales decline even more since the peak year in 2007 when 119,289 were sold in the U.S., compared to 78,388 in 2021, according to figures from Good Car Bad Car which uses data from automobile manufacturers.

For the large Chrysler 300 sedan, sales figures suggest the writing is on the wall. The once popular model that still rolls off the Brampton assembly line enjoyed impressive U.S. sales in 2005 when 144,048 were bought. As sedans lost favour and with the rise in gas prices, numbers plummeted, down to just 16,662 Chrysler 300s sold in the U.S. last year.

The Pointer asked Stellantis if the announcement means the end of production for the three models currently being made in Brampton.

“Per the collective agreement, current production at Brampton continues through 2023. We are not providing future product information at this time,” said Stellantis spokesperson LouAnn Gosselin.

The uncertainty won’t make things easy for the thousands of workers at secondary suppliers and other companies that rely on the current production of vehicles at the Brampton assembly plant.

But the shift to green technology is inevitable.

“Brampton plays a significant role in Ontario’s automotive sector and is home to top-tier manufacturers like our Stellantis assembly plant,” Prabmeet Sarkaria, PC MPP for Brampton South, said. “I’m proud that Brampton-built technology will help shape the next chapter in Ontario’s electric vehicle renaissance, as today’s investments continue to build tomorrow’s innovations.”

Email: jessica.durling@thepointer.com

Twitter: @JessicaRDurling

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