Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 11

* APRIL 2023
11
An elevator ride to the ground floor of VW's battery plant
Volkswagen's
investment
announcement
came March 13,
but an unofficial
announcement
might have been
made in August
in an elevator.
IN TORONTO LAST AUGUST,
a couple of hours after the federal
government and Volkswagen Group
signed a memorandum of understanding
on critical minerals,
Fran├žois-Philippe Champagne,
Canada's minister of innovation,
science and industry, sat alongside
executives from the automaker to
take questions from reporters.
The room was mostly empty as
the panel talked through the relatively
vague nonbinding deal.
It was a
startlingly
unassuming
start to what is
now being
touted as the
largest auto
investment in
Canadian
history.
VW's battery-cell
plant
in St. Thomas,
Ont., which
wouldn't be
announced
until March,
was something just short of a fantasy.
It had been about 35 years
since Canada landed investment
from a new automaker. The lack of
firm commitments in the initial VW
pact gave little indication that was
about to change.
DAVID
KENNEDY
TORONTO
BUREAU
CHIEF
Within a half-hour, the press
conference broke up with little fanfare.
I
ducked into the nearest elevator,
punched the button for the
lobby and then scrambled to keep
the doors from closing on
Champagne and his press secretary
as they piled in, rushing to
their next stop. We exchanged a
few pleasantries, though having
already spoken with each of them
twice that day about the deal,
there was little left to say.
But before the elevator doors
lurched open on the ground floor,
Champagne offered up something
novel.
" These guys are serious, " he
said with a confident nod.
Champagne had traveled to
Germany and Japan earlier in the
year, meeting with a series of
automakers during each visit. His
pitch for Canada had gone over
well at every stop, he told me after
the trips, with a tinge of his usual
salesmanship.
His Volkswagen comment took
a more earnest tone, though.
Something, it seemed, was different
about this prospect.
In October, the automaker
began holding regular meetings
with the Ontario government.
Those weekly check-ins continued
into 2023, by which time VW had
a small army of staff registered as
lobbyists with both the provincial
and federal governments.
Behind the scenes, Volkswagen
and its battery subsidiary,
PowerCo, visited the Ontario site
they would eventually choose. The
team made its first trip to St.
Thomas, midway between Toronto
and Windsor, in November.
Then Champagne was back in
Germany in December. In
Wolfsburg, top VW brass named
Canada as " one logical option " for
the company's first North
American battery-cell plant. They
stopped short of saying there were
other countries in the running,
likely weighing how Canada could
compete with large incentives
offered by the United States,
which were beginning to attract
battery investment.
The eventual announcement
naming St. Thomas as the winning
location came on March 13. It was
hardly a surprise to Automotive
News Canada, although before
that morning, both levels of government
said nothing was certain.
Details about the multibilliondollar
project are still outstanding,
with Volkswagen and the governments
working to schedule an official
event in St. Thomas. But while
we've been left to speculate at the
scale of investment and size of the
plant, one thing has been made
abundantly clear: These guys were
serious. - ANC
Fran├žois-Philippe Champagne, Canada's minister
of innovation, science and industry, sounded
serious when he said, " These guys are serious. "
They were. FILE PHOTO

Automotive News Canada - April 2023

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Automotive News Canada - April 2023

Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - Intro
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - CT1
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - CT2
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 1
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 2
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 3
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 4
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 5
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 6
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 7
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 8
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 9
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 10
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 11
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 12
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 13
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 14
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 15
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 16
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 17
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 18
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 19
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 20
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 21
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 22
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 23
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 24
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 25
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 26
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 27
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 28
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 29
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 30
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 31
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 32
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 33
Automotive News Canada - April 2023 - 34
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