OAKVILLE, Ontario -- Ford Motor Co. is close to a final decision on where to locate a flexible manufacturing plant and Oakville, Ontario, would be "a good place to do it," its CEO said on Tuesday.
But with several jurisdictions eagerly lobbying for the project, Bill Ford refused to be drawn on the Oakville minivan plant's chances of winning the investment.
"We probably will have something to announce in the fall," Ford said at the Canadian division's centennial celebrations. "This is a great place for us to do business. We've invested over $7.7 billion since 1990 and we're not going to walk away from here."
This year, the federal and provincial governments committed $200 million Canadian that the automaker said it needed to put together a compelling business case for the plant. The funding was part of a broader industry initiative for the manufacturing sector and Ontario's key auto industry.
"It's going very well so far and I expect us to reach a good conclusion," Ford said, adding that Ontario was competitive when it came to offering incentives to lure manufacturers.
"This is a good location to manufacture. Obviously, we are building flexible manufacturing into our manufacturing base. It is the wave of the future and this would be a good place to do it."
Ford said the automaker is still negotiating with the government as it concludes its decision, but added that talks did not center on getting more funding.
"It's not a question of asking for more and I don't want to give that impression," he said. "I'm not here to ask for any more money, it's not why I came here."
Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers, said Bill Ford's presence at the Oakville plant mere weeks before a decision on its future is encouraging.
"I don't think he would come here and celebrate with people ... and then announce a couple weeks later that the other plant is not going to be built," Hargrove said. "If we don't get an announcement in the next short period of time, I think that would be a very negative sign."
Hargrove said the Oakville location badly needed the new project, especially since the closure of Ford's nearby pickup truck plant last month.
The project would transform the Oakville plant, which makes the Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans, into a flexible assembly facility that could make multiple models on the same assembly line.