OTTAWA – With all the recent doomsday talk of Canadian PDA-maker Research In Motion’s seemingly imminent demise, while following the former high-tech giant Nortel’s death, the idea of a Canadian-owned global enterprise seems to be an impossible dream. So as we head into another Canada Day long weekend, I have to ask: Will this country ever see the day when we have our own automaker?
If you happen to be in Ottawa this weekend, perchance to get a glimpse at the recently wed helicopter pilot (Will) and housewife (Kate), the Canada Science and Technology Museum is still showing its In Search of the Canadian Car exhibit that launched last year. There, you’ll find a modest display of 14 cars, including the first car made in Canada, the 1867 Steam Buggy and the ill-fated 1975 Bricklin SV sports car. There’s also a 1961 Mercury Montcalm, an example of a time before the Canada-U.S. Auto Pact was passed in 1965, when 97 per cent of the cars made in Canada were bought by Canadians.
The museum exhibit is bittersweet. Despite this history of Canadians being some of the most-skilled builders of cars in the world, and foreign-owned Toyota, Honda, Chrysler, General Motors and Ford building cars on our soil, the idea of a purely Canadian–backed automaker seems just that—an idea.
Canadian Frank Stronach’s Magna came closest in its bid for cash strapped Chrysler in 2009, before Italy’s Fiat eventually gained control via U.S. bankruptcy proceedings. Even then, allegedly, the Magna bid was contingent on some Russian money kicking in.
Was Frank's stab the last chance for Canada to claim its own automaker?
Or is today's global economy simply too big for a Canadian-only backed automaker to survive alone?