Jonathon Liedtke – ourWindsor.ca – June 6, 2013
It was all car talk today at Caesar’s Windsor as participants of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association Annual Conference (APMA) listened in for a ‘fireplace’ chat with Joe Hinirchs, the executive vice president and president of the Americas Ford Motor Company, and Sandra Pupatello, the new CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation.
While a fireplace was conspicuously absent from the ‘fireplace’ chat, a riveting conversation about the automotive industry took place between Pupatello and Hinirchs.
“I’m just delighted that APMA invited me to conduct a ‘fireplace’ chat with keynote luncheon speaker Joe Hinirchs,” said Pupatello in a media release. “It is my belief and others that Joe Hinirchs played a pivotal role, and is one of the key reasons why today, we still have the Ford Engine Plant in Windsor-Essex.”
In an interview following the event, Pupatello explained that the current state of the automotive industry in Canada was “certainly better than we were” several years ago and that “generally, it looks like it’s on the uptick, which is good for us here in Windsor-Essex.”
“Windsor-Essex is going to be a leader forever in [the automotive industry],” proclaimed Pupatello. “We are the automotive capital of the country, not just from a volume perspective, but from quality as well.”
The theme of the conference was “Innovation and Competitiveness: Back to the Future” and the conversation focused heavily around the words “innovation” and “competition.”
Pupatello explained that the Ontario automotive industry has to remain competitive, innovate and be creative in finding “new ways of doing things” while “always maintaining that level of efficiency because we’ve got to best our competitors.”
Following the conversation, Reza Moridi, the Minister of Research and Innovation for the province of Ontario echoed this sentiment with reporters.
“Productivity and innovation is the major component in the industry,” said Moridi. “If you want to be competitive … and in order for us to be at the forefront of this industry, we need to be innovative.”
In an exclusive interview with ourWindsor.ca, Ken Lewenza explained that he believes that there is a need for the automotive industry to take a look at the global automotive industry and examine and implement best practices.
“I still believe today that the Japanese and the Koreans have the best practices, which is, take care of our economy first,” explained Lewenza. “It is simple: The Japanese and the Koreans say ‘We’re going to take care of our domestic market first and anything over and above that is a bonus’. We’ve got to have the same attitude.”
Noting how far the automotive industry has come since the 2008 economic crisis, Lewenza explained that he feels confident about the current state of the automotive industry in Canada.
“At this particular time, because the increase in market share of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in comparison to where it was ten years ago, I’m feeling pretty good about it,” said Lewenza. “Are we ever going to recover to where we were prior to 2008? Not likely. What we’ve got to do is find opportunities to enhance the industry today.”
Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.