Quick facts on Canada’s Auto Industry

What does the auto industry mean to Canada?

The auto industry is a critical part of Canada’s economy. The industry is a source of good, union jobs as well as skills development, applied research and innovation. The auto sector sustains a long and complex value chain, one that is evolving toward electric vehicles and contributing to Canada’s net zero ambitions. From component parts to final assembly, Canada is a world-renowned auto manufacturing centre and is still one of the foremost auto-making regions of the world.

The auto industry makes an oversized economic contribution to many communities across Canada, spurring economic growth, spin-off employment and boosting public spending by generating hundreds of millions of federal, provincial and municipal tax dollars.

What do Auto Talks 2023 mean to Canada?

Canada’s auto industry is undergoing a profound transformation. Catalyzed by game-changing electric vehicle investments secured by Unifor during and since 2020 negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers, the domestic industry is expected to grow. The string of new EV investments in Canada is impressive. The future of this industry, after years of steady decline, looks bright.

However, much of this expected growth is still many years away. There is uncertainty, particularly among autoworkers, as to what this transition will mean for jobs, skills, and production levels. Factories shifting to EV production could face extended downtime to retool operations, impacting thousands of workers directly and thousands more in the supply base. As the world economy reorients toward a net zero future, industries will inevitably change. Autoworkers are on the frontlines of this change, and 2023 Auto Talks will provide a platform for Unifor to navigate the road ahead.

At the same time, autoworkers – like most workers in Canada – are still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and deepening affordability crisis. Wages have fallen behind rising inflation. Pensions and retirement security have eroded over time. Workers need to make up lost ground. What Unifor has bargained historically at the Detroit Three has had a ripple-effect through the industrial supply chain and broader economy. 2023 will be no different. 

Key figures:

  • Direct jobs: 125,000
  • Spin-off and supported jobs (approximately): 462,000
  • Exports: $63 billion in 2022. The auto sector is Canada’s #2 export industry, and exports are expected to grow throughout 2023.
  • Vehicles produced per day: 3,352 in 2022.
  • Autoworkers contribute $6.1 million, per day, in taxes including payroll, sales, income, and property taxes on average in 2022.

Major Auto Sector Employers

Five major automakers operate assembly facilities in Canada including Ford, General Motors, Stellantis (which constitute the Detroit Three), as well as Honda and Toyota. Workers in the Detroit Three are unionized with Unifor. Automakers in Canada produce passenger cars as well as light and heavy-duty trucks including sedans, hatchbacks, CUVs, minivans, commercial vehicles, and pick-ups. Automakers also produce engines and transmissions and soon will produce electric batteries and battery materials in Canada.

Canada is also home to a highly developed auto-parts sector. The sector includes hundreds of independent suppliers that feed assembly operation. These independent suppliers include Canadian-owned firms that are among the largest in the world such as Magna, Linamar, and Martinrea. Unifor represents thousands of workers at these facilities as well.

As Canada continues to secure new investments in the electric vehicle value chain, new firms are opening battery and EV-related facilities in Canada, including Volkswagen, Umicore, among others.

Quick Facts:

  • In 2022, Canada’s autoworkers built more than 1.2 million vehicles (3,352 per day) sold in Canada and around the world.
  • Autoworkers produced vehicles and parts worth more than of $81 billion in 2022. All of this despite substantial supply chain challenges causing delays in production and occasional temporary work stoppages.

Source: Ward’s Automotive Data Canter, Statistics Canada.

Jobs and the Economy

Canada’s auto industry directly employed 125,000 workers in 2022 including 37,000 in assembly, 17,000 in truck and trailer production and more than 71,000 in parts. Factoring in additional auto-dependent jobs along the value chain as well as other spin-off jobs, the auto industry supports an estimated 462,000 jobs across Canada.

Quick Facts:

  • Decent wages, won by unions, help spur workers’ economic activity. Autoworkers’ wages in 2022 contributed $8.7 billion to the Canadian economy.
  • The auto sector has widely recognized spillover effects that benefit workers. The “multiplier” effect of a single auto assembly jobs is historically wide-ranging and cited as creating as many as 10 additional jobs. Today, auto manufacturing supports approximately 462,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy - across the value chain as well as in construction, in services, dealerships and many others.

Source: Unifor Research, Statistics Canada.

National Impact

The auto industry is a crucial source of innovation and research that boosts Canada’s economic performance.

Quick Facts:

  • The auto industry exported $63 billion worth of goods in 2022 (8% of Canada’s total). Among all of Canada’s manufacturing export industries, the auto industry ranks #1.
  • In Ontario, auto industry exports represent 29% of all provincial exports—the largest and most significant of all trade-dependent sectors.

Source: Statistics Canada; Industry Canada, Trade Data Online.

Major Investments

Groundbreaking product mandates secured by Unifor in its 2020 negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers catalyzed an impressive string of investments in Canada’s auto sector, including across the growing electric vehicle value chain. In less than three years, announced investments have totalled approximately $25 billion – and include brand new battery cell, battery material, and related manufacturing facilities. The rise in projected mining and processing operations in many provinces make this sector growth a truly pan-Canadian project. Canada is on pace to grow its share of the North American automotive manufacturing footprint, which is welcome news after decades of disinvestment and declining production capacity. The EV shift will present challenges to workers, however, and it is vital that affected workers secure good, union jobs in new facilities.

Quick Facts:

  • Since 2020, automakers and parts-makers have announced approximately $25 billion in new EV-related auto industry investments in Canada, including new EV assembly programs at the GM assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ford assembly plant in Oakville, Stellantis assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton and new electric motor production at the GM powertrain facility in St. Catharines.
  • Newly announced battery cell production facilities in Windsor (Stellantis/LG Energy) and St. Thomas (Volkswagen) are the two largest auto industry investments in Canadian history.
  • Unifor estimates that approximately 30% of workers in the independent auto parts sector are vulnerable to disruption (including job dislocation and job transitions) resulting from the shift to electric vehicles.

Source: Unifor Research; Center for Automotive Research; company reports.

Diversity and Inclusion

Increasing employment diversity in Canada’s manufacturing sector is an important objective of unions and must be of Canada’s employers as well. The auto industry is no exception to this. While there have been significant advances to ensure workforce demographics better reflect the working age population of Canada, more needs to be done. Expanding hiring practices to be inclusive of women, Black workers and workers of colour, Indigenous workers, newcomers, and workers with disabilities creates needed economic opportunities.

Quick Facts:

  • Across Canada’s vehicle assembly plants, an estimated 26% of workers identify as visible minorities and 27% are newcomers. In Canada’s auto parts, the share is far higher (42% of workers identifying as visible minorities, and 44% as newcomers).
  • Women continue to be under-represented in Canada’s auto sector. Despite impressive strides in recent years to hire more women, including at GM’s assembly complex in Oshawa, still just 19% of auto assembly workers in Canada are women.
  • Indigenous people represent approximately 4% of the total Canadian workforce, but only 2% of workers in the auto assembly and auto parts sector.

Source: FOCAL Initiative, 2021 Automotive Manufacturing Diversity Data (forthcoming)