BUSINESS

The Japanese carmakers’ patriotic plea

JASON KIRBY June 11 2007
BUSINESS

The Japanese carmakers’ patriotic plea

JASON KIRBY June 11 2007

The Japanese carmakers’ patriotic plea

JASON KIRBY

Toyota’s Japanese roots are a touchy subject for Stephen Beatty, the company’s managing director in Canada. When the National Post recently called the fast-growing car company “foreign,” Beatty wrapped himself in a giant maple leaf. “After 42 years [in Canada] and a proud record of job creation, investment and community involvement,” he

wrote, “have we not earned the right to be known as a domestic automaker?”

The short answer is yes. A new report from Statistics Canada shows that as the Big Three U.S. manufacturers shut plants and lay off workers here, Toyota, Honda and their suppliers have picked up much of the slack. Since 1999, while the Detroit gang cut their production at Canadian plants by one-third, to 1.6 million cars and trucks, the “new domestics,” as StatsCan calls them, have increased their output by one-third to more than 900,000. The U.S. firms still build more vehicles, but that’s largely because Toyota and Honda don’t make trucks here, yet. When Toyota’s new plant in Cambridge opens next year, the company will make more cars than anyone else in the country.

As the report notes, many still view Toyota and Honda as cheap importers, an image the companies are desperate to shake. Today most of the parts used by the Japanese automakers are made either in Canada or the United States. And the Japanese-owned manufacturers are exporting more and more Canadian-built cars to other countries.

All of this is hugely important to Ontario, where the auto sector is a $ 100-billion industry. Windsor has suffered the brunt of the cutbacks, and has had little success attracting Asian manufacturers. But the Japanese are building in cities like Cambridge and Woodstock, helping to buttress the province’s finances. The new domestics in Canada can’t immediately fill the gap left by the old, but they’ve helped ease the pain. Beatty will tell you that. M