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Industry Investments: Invest Ontario targets auto investments from China

Toronto, Ontario — The Government of Ontario, eager to attract a new plant from automakers in China, has created an agency to act as a “one-stop-shop” for manufacturers scouting places to invest.

The company, Invest Ontario, was created in July of 2020 and is viewed by the government as the “central agency for businesses to discover what others from around the province and globe have already realized, which is that Ontario is a top-tier destination for investment and strategic growth.” 

The agency has been designed as the go-to place for companies looking for places to invest, particularly ‘anchor’ investments that could lead to major hiring.

Chinese automakers have been eyeing the North American market for years. In that time, industry stakeholders, including Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), have been touting Canada as a place for them to build vehicles they will sell in North America. 

Invest Ontario could prove to be crucial to attracting a Chinese auto manufacturer to Canada, which is a key goal for Volpe and other industry stakeholders in recent years. 

Volpe said he has been working “hand-in-hand” with the province to attract such an investment adding that the creation of Invest Ontario fulfills a request he made to the government. 

“We asked, for one thing, a year ago,” Volpe said during the APMA’s virtual conference in November. “We said, ‘Could we get an investment agency that is a badge, that is a flag that says this is the office that you can go to the triages everything, all of those approvals in Ontario?”

Invest Ontario’s creation, “helped us signal Chinese (automakers), who are all state-owned enterprises, that [Ontario] is your partner here,” Volpe said. 

Several of China’s largest automakers by sales volume, including GAC, Geely, SAIC, and BYD, could begin selling vehicles in North America in the coming years, said Joe McCabe, CEO of AutoForecast Solutions LLC, speaking during the APMA conference. It was only a matter of time before one of them announces plans to begin producing vehicles in North America, said McCabe. 

 “We believe the best way is through the north,” McCabe said, adding that Canada would make sense as an entry point into the North American market given the country’s talent base and the government’s recent emphasis on investing in innovation.

New assembly plants in Canada have been rare and the most recent plant opening was Toyota Motor Corp.’s Woodstock, Ont., factory in 2008. 

 

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