Ford of Canada
The Start of Global Expansion

There are men in Detroit who say every farmer will soon be using an automobile. I don’t see why we can’t build them here in the wagon factory.” Canadian entrepreneur Gordon McGregor, Walkerville (now Windsor), Ontario, January 1904.

McGregor, who was just 30, was talking about the possibility of converting the Walkerville Wagon Works to production of automobiles.

Widely regarded today as the father of the Canadian automobile industry, McGregor and his brothers, Walter and Donald, were concerned about the future of the wagon factory, which Gordon ran following the death of their father in 1903.

Bobbie Gaunt, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ford of Canada.

Their first step was to visit some of the emerging automobile manufacturers in Detroit to determine which company had the greatest potential for success.

Henry Ford, who had launched Ford Motor Company a year earlier in 1903, impressed the young Canadians with his innovative automobiles and his vision of the future.

McGregor and his associates succeeded in attracting investors and with subscribed capital of $125,000, Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited, was incorporated on August 17, 1904. The event marked Ford Motor Company’s first expansion outside of the U.S. and the beginning of the company’s globalization.

The fledgling company produced 114 cars and its 17 employees generated a total payroll of $12,000 in its first year.

From those small beginnings, Ford of Canada grew to play a leading role in Canada’s economic development through the twentieth century as it supplied transportation for five generations of Canadians in times of peace and war.

The post-war boom in automobile sales resulted in the company expanding from its Windsor base. In 1953, the Oakville Assembly Plant began production followed by the Ontario Truck Plant in Oakville in 1965 and the St. Thomas Assembly Plant in 1967.

In contrast to the company’s first-year results, Ford of Canada’s annual production of cars and trucks now exceeds 600,000, employment of 14,000 employees generates a payroll of more than $1.5 billion, and purchases from Canadian suppliers tops $5 billion.

The automobile industry has become the engine of Canada’s export-based economy, representing more than a half-million jobs and employing one of seven Canadians directly or indirectly.

While Ford of Canada reflects with pride on its historic past, the company and its employees across Canada are focussed with determination on its future in the highly-competitive and increasingly globalized automobile industry.

For the first 60 years of its existence, Ford of Canada competed only with other companies operating in Canada. Then in 1965, the Canada-U.S. Autopact created a North American market for Canadian-produced vehicles. As a result, Ford of Canada and its employees rose to the challenge of competing on a continental basis.

But through the 1990s, the playing field grew even further to include the entire world as the automobile industry, among others, became more globalized.

Ford of Canada responded to this new challenge by launching the most extensive investment program in its history to expand, retool, and convert its plants to the highest technology standards in the world. More than $6 billion was spent in the first seven years of the ‘90s.

Ford of Canada’s two assembly plants in Oakville, Ontario, one in St. Thomas, Ontario, and five engine and component casting plants in Windsor, Ontario, ship their products around the world. The Oakville-built Ford Windstar minivan, for example, is exported to more than 40 countries.

Ford of Canada plays an important role in the worldwide operations of Ford Motor Company, which serves customers in more than 200 countries and territories.

In 1996 when Ford produced the 250 millionth vehicle since its establishment in 1903, the country that accounted for the highest total – outside of the U.S. – was Canada, with more than 20 million vehicles, ahead of the output from Ford operations in either Great Britain or Germany.

The rate of production growth has been spectacular in recent years. The company was in operation for 72 years before reaching the 10-million mark in vehicle production. But then it took only the next 20 years to chalk up the second ten-million.

In 1997, Bobbie Gaunt was named President and Chief Executive Officer of Ford of Canada, to become the 12th president and first woman to head Ford of Canada in its 93-year history.