Honda spends $1.38 billion to upgrade Alliston, Ontario plant

Honda Canada President and CEO Jean Marc Leclerc – with Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford – announcing the automaker’s $1.38 billion investment at its plant in Alliston, Ontario.
(Photo credit: Honda Canada)

The Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of Ontario on Tuesday announced millions of dollars in financial support for the domestic production of hybrid cars, but the two leaders dodged questions about the possibility of incentives to help Canadians buy them.

Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford were in Alliston, Ont., on Wednesday to formally announce the $131.6 million each government has pledged to spend on upgrades at a Honda manufacturing plant that will eventually build the CR-vehicles. 2023 V and CR-V hybrids.

The two leaders said the plan would help secure good jobs in the local auto sector in the future.

“These investments will allow Honda Canada to build its next-generation models, such as hybrids, here in Ontario for sale across North America,” Ford said.

“That means the cars of the future will be built right here by Ontario workers using Ontario resources.

Honda said the retooling project would cost $1.4 billion over six years.

Trudeau said projects like Honda’s will help Canada make a sustainable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It means understanding where the world is going and celebrating that Honda sees this and sees Canada and Canadians as essential partners in moving forward on this path,” he said.

Ford has said it wants to accelerate the manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicles in Ontario. Last year, his government announced a 10-year plan to manufacture more batteries, vehicles and parts in the province, train more autoworkers and eventually extract minerals in northern Ontario.

But Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have not pledged to offer incentives such as buyer rebates, after rolling back a rebate of up to $14,000 for electric vehicle buyers brought in by the former Liberal government, which Ford called at the time support for the wealthy.

Electric vehicle sales plummeted when Ford scrapped the rebate in 2018.

When asked on Wednesday whether it would bring back the rebate, Ford did not respond directly, although it suggested its policy change had boosted sales.

“Since we came to power, sales of electric vehicles have tripled, so I guess it was a good decision,” he said, pointing to his government’s plans to support the production of vehicles by other means. “We’re putting money back into electric vehicles.”

The Progressive Conservatives also stopped building electric vehicle charging stations after forming government. On Wednesday, Ford said the province is building road infrastructure and will continue to add charging infrastructure “as the market demands.”

Trudeau also didn’t comment directly when asked if Ontario should reinstate the refund, instead saying the federal government was happy to work with the province on Honda’s announcement.

“We will continue to ensure automakers invest in the jobs of the future and the cars of the future across the country,” he said.

Provincial opposition politicians, gearing up for an election in early June, pledged on Wednesday to restore buyer discounts.

The Ontario Liberals promised Wednesday to give families rebates of up to $8,000 for the purchase or lease of a zero-emission vehicle and $1,500 for the purchase of charging equipment. The party said an elected Liberal government would make charging stations more widely available in apartment buildings, parking lots, city streets and transit stations through a 30% subsidy for the charging infrastructure.

The provincial Greens said they would offer cash incentives of up to $10,000 to buyers of electric vehicles, introduce low-cost financing for cars and promised to expand charging infrastructure.

The party said it was “relieved” to see Ford investing in electric vehicles after past cuts, but leader Mike Schreiner said incentives were needed to help people make the switch.

“We need to get big oil out of our wallets and make life more affordable by helping people go electric and avoid sky-high prices at the pump,” Schreiner said in a written statement.

“Without a real plan to make electric vehicles more affordable and accessible, electric driving will remain out of reach for far too many Ontario families.

Leon E. Hill