Tread Carefully: Doug Ford cautious about restart of auto industry

Toronto, Ontario ⁠— Ontario Premier Doug Ford doesn’t want the province’s automakers to resume production too quickly. 

Ontario is home to seven assembly plants operated by five automakers. Several plants are planning to resume operations in early May, though Ford seemed cautiously optimistic on Monday when he was asked when the province would be open for business.

“I know⁠—I think⁠—the automotive industry in North America is opening around May 4. Let’s just see how it goes for each sector,” Ford told the press at his daily briefing in Toronto. “I just do not want to put a date on this. This could bite us in the backside in about 10 seconds.”

Ford cited concerns of a second coronavirus wave accompanying the fall flu season.

“There’s no one out there that wants to open up the economy more than I do,” he said. “But we have to hold off for a bit.”  

Fiat Chrysler (FCA), which has two facilities in Ontario, plans to rev up operations at its Brampton facility on May 4, and follow with its Windsor minivan plant on May 18. Toyota, which has assembly plants in Woodstock, Ont., and Cambridge, Ont., is said to resume production on May 4.

Ford, General Motors and Honda have stayed silent on when they hope to restart their lines.

Meanwhile, Magna International has cautiously said it plans to resume North American operations on May 4.

On Monday, Canadian health officials said they expect the province’s cases to top out at less than 20,000⁠—a considerable improvement from the Apr. 3 projection, which predicted between 80,000 and 300,000 confirmed cases in Ontario.

Ford said Ontario has avoided the worst-case scenario, but the province isn’t out of the woods yet.

“We’ve seen new modelling that shows some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “The numbers clearly show that the steps we have taken as a province are working and they’re working because of you.”

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