Canada’s automotive sector began the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic with hope, but anti-restriction protesters, a resurgence of the virus and continuing supply-chain disruptions — amplified by Russia’s war on Ukraine — pushed thoughts of a sales recovery far into the future.
Here’s Automotive News Canada’s look back at the year that was …
General Motors was not only restarting its Oshawa Assembly plant for Chevy pickup production, it was also turning the corner on male dominance in automotive manufacturing. Automotive News Canada reported that of the 1,200 workers hired for the restart of the plant, half were women. The company used the restart to reset its workforce and allow diversity to flourish. ••• The industry mourned the death of Linamar founder Frank Hasenfratz, who, starting in 1964, turned a $1,000 lathe into a global auto parts company. The Order of Canada member died Jan. 8 at the age of 86. Linamar is run by daughter Linda Hasenfratz and is worth $5.8 billion. “He was a giant among us,” she said at his funeral on Jan. 15. “A family man, a mentor, a leader. He’ll be immeasurably missed.” ••• Automakers and dealers were bracing for a 2022 that was predicted to look a lot like 2021, when 1.66 million vehicles were sold (a seven-per-cent increase over 2020 sales). Dealers were looking out at empty lots, driven by shortages of critical components, and expected a tough first quarter. ••• It was another bleak year ahead for the country’s auto shows as all were cancelled because of pandemic-related government restrictions.
It was over in less than a week, but for six days in February, Canada’s automotive sector was at a standstill. Anti-restriction protesters blockaded the Ambassador Bridge joining Windsor and Detroit, shutting down shipments critical to the automotive industries in Canada and the United States. Estimates of damage to the sector’s economy ranged from $383 million to more than $1 billion, but industry watchers worried the damage would be far more long-term as automakers would be less likely to invest in Canada’s sector for fear of another blockade.