Canada has a receding manufacturing sector, some might argue that Canadian manufacturing sector is strong, but when it comes to the automotive industry, it lacks a prominent presence compared to countries like the United States, Germany, Japan, or South Korea. While Canada has seen some success in auto assembly plants and component manufacturing, it has not been able to establish a fully-fledged domestic automotive industry. This article explores several factors that contribute to Canada’s absence of a thriving automotive industry and examines different perspectives on the matter.
Canada has many automotive manufacturing plants like Magna, Linemar, Benteler but Canada does not have a Made in Canada brand like US, Germany, South Korea, Japan or even India, China and Turkey has, but why is that? Are we just service industry nation, lacking engineers and skills to have our own car brand? Why doesn’t Canada have a car brand or even industrial machinery industry like Germany, China or Japan? One might say, but we have automotive assembly plants like Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota, well, that is true, but we don’t have research and development in automotive and in industrial machinery and robotics as well.
Some of the reasons why Canada lacks it’s own automotive brand
Proximity to the United States
One key factor influencing Canada’s lack of a robust automotive industry is its close proximity to the United States. The United States has historically been a dominant force in the global automotive market, with established manufacturers and a significant domestic market. As a result, Canada has often served as a supplementary market and production base for American automakers rather than developing its own industry. If we remember, in the past some automotive or avionic experiments have failed badly due to proximity to the US like Russell Motor Cars or Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow. Both had very short success. Between 1904 and 1916, the Toronto, Canada-based Russell Motor Car Company made automobiles. Avro Canada developed and produced the delta-winged interceptor aircraft known as the CF-105 Arrow. Before the scheduled project review to assess the program could be held, Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker abruptly stopped the construction of the Arrow and its Iroquois engines on February 20, 1959.
Limited Domestic Market Size
Canada’s population of approximately 38 million is relatively small compared to other countries with strong automotive industries. The limited domestic market size poses challenges for establishing a self-sustaining automotive industry. Canadian consumers have diverse preferences and often have access to a wide range of imported vehicles. This makes it difficult for a domestic automaker to achieve economies of scale and compete effectively in the global market. Let’s see what is the size of car brand countries:
USA – 332 Mio.
Germany – 83.2 Mio.
Japan – 135.7 Mio.
South Korea – 51.7 Mio.
China – 1.4 Bio.
India – 1.4 Bio.
Turkey – 85 Mio.
If we look at these numbers, yes Canada is lacking population compared to other automotive producing countries, yet, Yugoslavia for instance had the population of 23 Mio. back in 1991 and they had a thriving and very successful automobile industry.
Lack of Domestic Brand Development
Canada has not been able to develop a homegrown automotive brand that can compete on a global scale. Establishing a new brand requires significant investment, research, development, and marketing efforts. The absence of a flagship Canadian brand has hindered the emergence of a distinct Canadian automotive identity.
Global Competitive Landscape
The global automotive industry is highly competitive, with long-established players dominating the market. Competing with well-established automakers requires substantial resources, advanced technology, and extensive supply chain networks. Canada has faced challenges in attracting and sustaining large-scale investments from global automotive manufacturers, particularly when compared to countries with lower production costs or more significant domestic markets.
Shifting Global Manufacturing Patterns
Over the past few decades, there has been a shift in global manufacturing patterns, with companies seeking lower production costs and access to emerging markets. This has led to the outsourcing of manufacturing operations to countries with lower labor costs and favorable trade agreements. Canada’s relatively higher labor costs and stringent regulatory environment have influenced the decision of some automakers to establish manufacturing facilities elsewhere.
Focus on Component Manufacturing and Assembly
While Canada does not have its own automotive brand, it has developed a strong presence in component manufacturing and vehicle assembly. Canadian plants produce a significant number of auto parts, engines, and vehicles for global automakers. These operations provide employment opportunities and contribute to the economy but do not represent a comprehensive domestic automotive industry.
Canadian Automobile Brand would be nice yet it appears uneconomical
The absence of a fully-fledged automotive industry in Canada can be attributed to various factors, including proximity to the United States, limited domestic market size, lack of domestic brand development, global competitiveness, shifting manufacturing patterns, and the country’s focus on component manufacturing and assembly. While Canada has not established its own prominent automotive brand, it has contributed to the global automotive supply chain and has seen success in supporting the assembly and manufacturing operations of global automakers. As the automotive industry continues to evolve, it remains to be seen whether Canada will pursue strategies to develop a more comprehensive domestic automotive industry or focus on leveraging its strengths in the global market.