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Auto workers’ union Unifor has struck a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) that will see the automaker’s Windsor plant retooled to make plug-in or hybrid vehicles starting 2024. FCA will invest between $1.35 billion and $1.5 billion as part of the three-year tentative collective agreement between the union and the automaker. (The Globe and Mail, The Logic)

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Talking point: This is the second major electric-vehicle investment in Canada announced by one of the Big Three automakers this fall; Ford Motors recently announced it would be investing $1.8 billion, alongside the provincial and federal government, to turn its Oakville plant into an EV manufacturing hub. The “lion’s share” of the $1.5-billion investment will come from FCA, according to Unifor national president Jerry Dias, but the union is also in negotiations with federal and provincial governments for additional money. FCA’s Windsor assembly plant still employs 4,600 people, after a massive 1,500-person layoff in June when the facility moved into a two-shift schedule. Unifor said the EV investment will add 2,000 jobs to the Windsor plant.

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The two tech companies will provide self-driving, car-sharing audio and video software for all the automaker’s models by 2022. Meanwhile, Amazon delivery drivers will now be able to leave packages in the trunks or backseats of shoppers’ Ford and Lincoln cars. (Reuters, Bloomberg)

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Talking point: Fiat Chrysler has chosen to stay out of the costly business of developing its own self-driving technology. It had already picked Google parent Alphabet as its autonomous vehicle champion, providing the tech giant’s Waymo unit with 62,000 Chrysler Pacific minivans for its autonomous ride-hailing service in May 2018. That could make it even more attractive to Renault, which is reportedly looking to acquire the Italian American automaker after the French firm merges with Nissan. The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance has its own deal with Waymo.

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The automaker will stop running the third shift at the factory—which makes the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan models—by the end of September. It said it wants to “better align production with global demand.” (Canadian Press, CBC)

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Talking point: The company is scaling back North American production—albeit in a minor way—right when its 12 per cent share of the North American market is making it an attractive target to other automakers. European automaker Peugeot has reportedly suggested a merger, while Renault reportedly plans to combine with Nissan before trying to acquire Fiat Chrysler. And, Volkswagen has been getting questions about a tie-up, though CEO Herbert Diess denied it yesterday. But it’s Canadian taxpayers—some of whom the company is about to lay off—who helped make Fiat Chrysler such an attractive transaction target. In October 2018, the federal government wrote off US$1.1 billion of loans it made to Chrysler following the financial crisis.

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The Italian-American automaker blamed the French government for the decision. On Wednesday night, the Renault board postponed approval of the deal at the request of the government, which wanted more time to discuss it with Japanese officials—Renault has a global alliance with Japanese carmaker Nissan. The French state owns 15 per cent of Renault. (Bloomberg)

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Talking point: Carmakers are forming joint ventures and merging as a way to reduce costs and link up their electric- and autonomous-vehicle (AV) efforts. Both Fiat-Chrysler and Renault-Nissan had deals with Alphabet for self-driving technology, so the collapse of the deal and the creation of a different combination involving either firm could open up opportunities for other automotive tech companies. A merger involving Fiat remains likely, however, because other companies have shown interest. Shares of PSA—owner of the Peugeot brand—rose on Thursday; Robert Peugeot, president of the namesake family’s holding company, identified Fiat as a potential partner in March. The combined firm could face a new competitor—Apple is reportedly acquiring Drive.ai, a self-driving shuttle company, to speed up the development of its own AV tech.

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Ford will build the vehicles mainly in Windsor and Oakville in Ontario as part of a settlement reached with Unifor, whose members still need to ratify the deal. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Unifor’s leadership is ecstatic about the deal. “We are now positioned to be the jewel in Ford’s crown, and a key part of Ford’s future success transitioning to greener technology. As an organization, we’ve hit a home run,” said national president Jerry Dias. Ford’s commitment secures automobile manufacturing jobs in Windsor and Oakville for several decades. Currently, electric vehicle sales make up 2.7 per cent of global new car sales. That number is on track to reach 58 per cent by 2040, according to a BloombergNEF analysis. Unifor estimates that $300 billion has been spent globally on electric-vehicle production, but this is the first money allocated for Canadian production. Tesla is expected to announce its battery-production plans after newsletter publication Tuesday. The Unifor deal includes the rights to build five vehicles and their batteries. If ratified during a Sunday night vote by members, Unifor will move to negotiate with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles next, then General Motors.