Updated: The Bridge to Detroit Is Closed, And Now Automakers Are Halting Production

February 9, 2022
Ambassador Bridge blocked by Canada's truckers
The Ambassador Bridge links Detroit automakers with Canadian suppliers. Source: Ambassador Bridge

Update 2/10/2022: The situation on the US – Canada border continues to get worse. Now, GM’s Lansing Delta Plant is shut down for the day. The plant, which employs 2,000 workers, builds the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave crossovers. Automotive News reports that Stellantis shortened shifts for their production plants in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario. Ford’s two engine-making plants in Ontario are operating at reduced capacities too. Toyota seems to be hit pretty hard too. Toyota does not expect any production in its Ontario facilities for the rest of the week. Check back for the latest updates.

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A blockade at the US-Canada border threatens to amplify the magnitude of the ongoing supply shortage that’s been gripping the automotive industry for the greater part of the last year. The general consensus is that Detroit automakers could weather a two-day blockade without severe interruptions. It’s day three, and both sides of the international automotive supply chain are preparing for significant disruptions.

Across Canada, truckers are protesting the federal vaccine mandate. The protests first began to disrupt cross-border traffic on Monday. One-quarter of all goods traded between the two countries passes through the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit, Michigan with Windsor, Ontario. The corridor is crucial for $100 billion in trade annually. The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority estimates that 7,000 trucks cross the bridge every day.

Traffic from Canada to the US reopened Tuesday afternoon, but traffic in the opposite direction remains closed. With protests ongoing and spreading to other ports of entry, the threat of major disruption remains.

Automotive Suppliers Are On Edge

Robert Wildeboer of tier-one automotive supplier Martinrea International told Canadian news outlet BNN Bloomberg that the clock is ticking for the whole cross-border supply chain.

“Basically if there’s a shutdown of transportation routes, the auto industry comes to a screeching halt in about two days,” said Wildeboer on Tuesday. Martinrea has 38 trucks of automotive parts crossing the Ambassador Bridge into Detroit daily. 

The Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association is not too happy about the blockade either. Association Head Flavio Volpe denounced the blockade on social media and called for an immediate end to the disruptions. 

Automotive News reports that the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association is calling for an immediate end to the protests that threaten jobs and vehicle production on both sides of the border. 

“Blockades at Canada’s borders are threatening fragile supply chains already under pressure due to pandemic related shortages and backlogs,” CVMA CEO Brian Kingston said in a statement. Vehicles and automotive parts are Canada’s second largest export, worth $52 billion each year. Automotive products account for 23% of all Canadian exports, second only to natural resources. 

Not all of Canada’s truckers are protesting. The Teamsters Union says that in Canada, truckers are worried about the harm being done by the protesters at the border. The Teamsters Union worries that the disruptive actions of the protestors delegitimize the real concerns of most Canadian truck drivers.

Consumer Impacts?

If the Canadian blockade continues, we expect production capacity to screech to a halt. As a result, dealer lots will empty even further, and prices will rise yet again. Dealer profits remain at record highs despite inventory remaining at record lows. Can the mismatch between supply and demand get any worse? Unfortunately, it’s now possible. In Canada, truckers are the vital link in the critical supply chain connecting the two countries. The latest developments at the border complicate an already slow recovery for the industry.

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