Ray Tanguay tasked with winning Canada a bigger slice of auto production pie

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The Ontario and federal governments have stopped fretting as more and more auto production heads south and decided to do something about it. They hired Ray Tanguay to chair the new auto investment committee of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council.

The industry-led organization was formed in September 2002 to address the key competitive issues facing the Canadian automotive industry.    

Those issues have multiplied in the past 13 years as auto production continues to migrate south to the U.S. and Mexico. GM announced it will shift Camaro production from Oshawa, Ont., to Lansing, Mich., while, ironically, the Toyota Motor Corp. will be moving Corolla production from Cambridge, Ont., to Mexico.

Recently, Volvo disdained lucrative offers to open a plant here, preferring instead to build a $500 million plant in South Carolina. The automaker says the plant will eventually employ 4,000.

Tanguay’s appointment was announced at a press conference in Toronto earlier this week. Speaking at the conference, Ontario’s minister of economic development, Brad Duguid, highlighted the challenges the Canadian auto industry faces.

“In the old days, Ontario and Canada could allow potential auto investments to come to us without a great deal of marketing or a great deal of solicitation,” he said. “Those days, unfortunately, are gone, which means we’re going to have to up our game.

Duguid noted there was no denying that low-cost, low-standard jurisdictions have been getting the lion’s share of new investments and that Ontario, the hub of the country’s auto-manufacturing sector, has simply not been proactive enough in seeking global investments.

“We’ve often found that by the time we get into the running, the decisions have been made long ago, and we’re almost coming from behind,” he noted. “We need a better sense of intelligence within the auto sector, both domestically and internationally, so that we get out ahead of some of these mandates. There are opportunities for expansion in the auto sector in North America, but sometimes you need to start working on those leads two, three, four, five years in advance.”

The minister went on to explain why the new hire won the job of advising both levels of government and the auto industry.

“If he makes a call, people are going to pick up the phone,” Duguid said. “There’s no question—Ray can open some doors for us internationally.”

Federal Industry Minister James Moore says Canada’s auto industry has a number of competitive advantages, including tariff-free access to other markets, low corporate taxes, high levels of government funding and a talented workforce.

While Tanguay’s role will be that of a special advisor and head of the subcommittee, Moore dubbed him the “car czar.”

Tanguay rose through the ranks at Toyota to become one of the highest-ranking non-Japanese executives at the company.

He was also instrumental in convincing the automaker to expand its assembly line operations in Canada to the point that Toyota has now made more than five million cars here.

The auto sector contributed $16 billion to Ontario's GDP last year.