The automotive industry in Ontario is experiencing sweeping, rapid change and London industries are lining up for a piece of the action.

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The automotive industry in Ontario is experiencing sweeping, rapid change and London industries are lining up for a piece of the action.

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In the wake of the announcement that Stellantis (formerly Chrysler Fiat) and LG Energy Solution will build a $5-billion automobile battery plant in Windsor, London industries will bid to supply a growing electrified automotive sector.

“It is an emerging market and we will definitely look to see what we will supply. We are looking to be a supplier,” said Andy Mavrokefalos, president of Attica Manufacturing on Invicta Court that makes parts for machinery across several industrial sectors, including automotive.

“We have been involved with Tesla and Magna supplying parts, we have supplied components for EV (electric vehicle) motor vehicles. This will lift the local economy. It will affect us all in terms of demand.”

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The Stellantis and LG plant is expected to employ 2,500 when it begins production in 2024 of batteries for the North American market.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, left, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Federal Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade François-Philippe Champagne are shown at a news conference on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in Windsor where a $5-billion dollar investment to build an EV battery plant in the city was announced. (Dan Janisse/Postmedia Network)
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, left, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Federal Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade François-Philippe Champagne are shown at a news conference on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in Windsor where a $5-billion dollar investment to build an EV battery plant in the city was announced. (Dan Janisse/Postmedia Network)

In a short period of time, electric vehicle production has transformed the Canadian automotive landscape focused largely in Ontario. In 2020, Ford of Canada announced plans for electric vehicle production at its Oakville plant with a $1.4-billion investment. It is expected electric Lincoln SUVs will roll off the line there in 2024 or 2025.

In January 2021, GM Canada announced Cami Assembly in Ingersoll will produce fully electric commercial vans, and work on two models has begun. In the short 14-month period since, GM Canada announced battery component production at a plant in Quebec, and Honda said it will make electric-hybrid vehicles at its plant in Alliston, north of Toronto. Toyota is assembling hybrid vehicles in Ontario.

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“It is excellent news. Jobs from these plants will be economic drivers across Ontario,” Mavrokefalos said.

There are about 50 automotive parts plants in the London region employing about 10,000 workers, about a third of manufacturing jobs in the city and area, according to figures from the London Economic Development Corp.

Like Attica, Abuma Manufacturing on Admiral Drive will look to supply the new EV market.

“This is a huge victory for the region,” said Ben Whitney, Abuma president. “We build equipment for people making car parts. It is super exciting for the region and for us.”

It is too soon to say exactly what those bids to supply parts makers will look like, but London and area industry, Abuma and Attica included, have experience supplying manufacturers from aerospace to food manufacturing.

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“We supply all of the region’s top auto parts makers and many of those companies are flexing in the battery electric supply chain,” Whitney said.

“Without these investments, you would see the automotive base here challenged. It is really good news.”

The EV investments will see dozens of manufacturers in London and hundreds throughout the province land work to supply the battery market, but many suppliers may not make the leap to a changing auto industry, said Brendan Sweeney, director of the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing in London.

While doors, seats and bumpers still will be in demand, there are a lot of parts to an internal combustion engine that electric engines do not have, and some suppliers will see their markets disappear.

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“Some will grow, some will be impacted negatively and for others, it is business as usual,” Sweeney said. “But we think it will be more positive than negative. There is so much work. This is great for Windsor, but it will be felt throughout Southwestern Ontario.”

Economic development agencies see the trend toward electrification and are maintaining contact with businesses working in that sector including battery suppliers, said Kapil Lakhotia, chief executive of the London Economic Development Corp.

“Transportation and automotive remain important industries for our region. Our industrial land strategy focuses on targeted industries, including auto parts manufacturing, and electricity fits in that sweet spot. We get inquiries from advanced manufacturers and, fingers crossed, we will develop electrification opportunities,” he said.

“We have a supply chain, we call on companies, and we have a list of prospects.”

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Twitter.com/NormatLFPress

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