When it comes to building cars, Canada does all right. In terms of worldwide annual production, we rank about ninth or 10th.
The quality is also there; Canadian plants of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler routinely score higher in quality indices than their American counterparts; Toyota and Honda continue to view Canada as a great place to establish and expand manufacturing facilities.
Consider also that our auto parts industry is arguably the equal of any in the world. Magna continues to assert itself as one of the world’s top suppliers. It already builds complete vehicles for customers in Europe, and is poised to buy GM’s European unit of Opel.
And Canada has always been a player. We were there at the very inception of automobile manufacturing, way back there in the early years of the last century, when factory smoke stacks were considered things of beauty, and businessmen wore top hats, even to bed.
In those days there were many Canadian automotive brands — McLaughlin, Russell, Brooks Steam, Redpath, Galt, etc. They obviously all died off, with the famous exception of McLaughlin, which got swallowed by GM.
So here we are with no Canadian car brands so far, and no car that says “Canada” the way Jaguar says England, Cadillac says America, Volvo says Sweden, Mercedes-Benz says Germany, Maserati says Italy, or Lada says Russia.
I guess we just have to be happy for what we do contribute to the world in terms of automotive production and technology, and not get too hung up about our current “branch plant” status.
I mean somebody’s got to do cold weather testing, right? Who is going to make sure batteries crank over at 50 below if not us?
But maybe it’s better that we don’t have a brand that totally embodies Canada, because the one I’m picturing at the moment is kind of scary.
The engine was designed and built in central Canada, but it’s way too conservative for the racy styling and interior, which came from Quebec. The cargo area, the responsibility of Western Canada, can’t hold anything, because they’ve gone and installed another engine back there, and it’s more powerful than the Central Canada one, which is no longer connected to anything. The seats aren’t covered because they’re the responsibility of the Maritimes. They want to do it in cod skin, but need to wait for the cod stocks to bounce back before getting started.
And just to make sure everyone would know this is a Canadian car, it would have a little Canadian flag sewn on the back fender.
– Michael Goetz has been writing about cars and editing automotive publications for more than 20 years. He lives in Toronto with his family and a neglected 1967 Jaguar E-type.