Chrysler Canada
Forging the Link

Chrysler Canada Ltd. has a long and innovative history in this country. Few are aware however, that part of its history actually predates the company’s founding. It all started back in the late 1800s when a couple of entrepreneurial brothers from Toronto, John and Horace Dodge, moved to Windsor to expand their bicycle manufacturing business. By 1914 they had decided to try their hand at building automobiles. The first Dodge car, a four-cylinder vehicle that sold for $785, quickly became the stuff of legend by descending the Grand Canyon and returning under its own power, an unheard-of feat in those days.

A decade later in 1924, and just days after he formed its parent company in nearby Detroit, Walter Percival Chrysler founded the Chrysler Corporation of Canada in Windsor. Percival’s great-great-grandfather actually had roots in the area, having owned a farm near Chatham, about an hour east of Windsor. In 1928, Walter Percival Chrysler acquired the legendary Dodge brothers’ company, and forged a partnership that would last through the century.

The all-new 1998 Chrysler Concorde.

Famous today for cars, trucks and the introduction of the minivan – a concept that forever changed the shape of family cars – Chrysler has pioneered an impressive array of innovations in the automobile industry. In 1934, the company introduced automatic overdrive and the one-piece curved glass windshield. Key-operated ignition and starter switch came in 1949, followed by hydraulic brakes and all-electric window lifts in 1950. In 1978, Chrysler proudly introduced the first North American built production car with front-wheel drive. In 1987, the company boldly acquired Jeep®, the unstoppable 4-wheel drive legend.

The last few years have provided brilliant examples of Chrysler’s tradition of innovation. From driver and passenger air bags, to child-protection rear locks, Chrysler has continued to proactively improve its products. Design is always top priority, and the 450 horsepower Viper, introduced in 1992, and the eye-catching Plymouth Prowler, which combines sleek racing design with hot-rod panache, are a couple of prime examples. The second generation Concorde and Intrepid showcase the company’s best expression of cab-forward design.

Beyond the production line, Chrysler’s commitment to innovation and to Canada is probably best shown in its on-going support of educational programs. An initiative the company is particularly proud of is called "Forging the Link" – a bold new model of cooperation for industry, education and government. Led by Mr. Yves Landry, President, Chairman and CEO of Chrysler Canada, representatives from all three groups went to Europe to see how research, apprenticeship and co-operative education produces highly employable, immediately productive graduates.

The University of Windsor/Chrysler Canada Ltd. Automotive Research and Development Centre.

According to Mr. Landry, "Forging the link between business and educational institutions is absolutely essential if we are to prepare our young people for competition, and if we are to equip them with the required skills and confidence to deal with technology-driven changes through their working lives." To help forge this link, Chrysler is working with the University of Windsor and St. Clair College of Applied Arts and Technology on a plan to "bridge" curriculum between the two institutions. This will help create the multi-skilled workforce that business needs, and provide the training that allows students to get good jobs.

Out of Mr. Landry’s determination to see this country stay competitive and prosperous came another innovation the company is justly proud of. The Automotive Research and Development Centre is a joint project of Chrysler Canada and the University of Windsor. As the only institute of its kind in North America, the Centre is a sterling example of what industry, academia and government can achieve in partnership.

"Research is the key to competitiveness, growth and high value jobs in this country," Mr. Landry insists. Apart from conducting the kind of research he believes Canada badly needs, the R & D Centre gives young people the practical, hands-on experience so necessary today.

The Automotive Research and Development Centre has 24 vehicle bays, a full prototype fabrication shop, a $20 million Road Test Simulation Lab, and 3 test cells, including an environmental chamber that takes vehicles from the Sahara to the Antarctic. All facilities are state-of-the-art, so students learn real world, current applications.

With headquarters in Windsor, Ontario, Chrysler Canada Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Detroit-based Chrysler Corporation. But the company’s commitment to Canadian industry goes far beyond the operations of the Bramalea Assembly Plant in Brampton, the Ajax Trim Plant in Ajax, and Etobicoke Aluminum Casting in Toronto. With over 90,000 Canadians employed by Chrysler, its suppliers and its dealers, and the billions of dollars generated by exports, the company has a substantial stake in the continued prosperity of this country.

That’s why Mr. Landry challenges every sector of business to get involved in "Forging the Link." In backing apprenticeship programs, encouraging industry, education and government to co-operate, and by contributing over $21 million to the Automotive Research and Development Centre, Chrysler says loud and clear "We’re not just building cars and trucks, we’re building Canada."