An expansive view of Martinrea’s parts facility

Auto parts maker Martinrea International designs, develops and manufactures highly engineered, value-added lightweight structures and propulsion systems. Its customers are a who’s who of the global auto industry, including Toyota, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Stellantis, BMW, Volvo, Volkswagen, Mazda, Nissan, Kia, Tesla… the list goes on.

Established in 2001, today Vaughan-based Martinrea is a $4-billion a year business – and growing quickly. So, when co-founder and chairman Rob Wildeboer speaks, the industry tends to take note.

Ontario is the ideal location

Rob Wildeboer poses in front of the windows of his office
Over the past 20 years, Rob Wildeboer and his team have turned Martinrea into a one of the world’s largest parts suppliers with a reputation for delivering outstanding quality products and services.

“We began in Ontario and, while we have operations in 9 other countries, we remain headquartered here,” says Wildeboer. “Our continued growth depends on our ability to innovate and respond nimbly in a technologically advanced industry that’s moving rapidly toward EV production. Ontario is the ideal location for us – and other innovative parts makers.”

Wildeboer is clear on the reasons. To start, Ontario offers an exceptional workforce. Well educated, hard-working and multicultural, it has built the province’s reputation for automotive scientific and manufacturing excellence. With 500+ tool, die and mould makers, Ontario has a secure, sophisticated and ethical supply chain, as well as abundant green energy. It’s also the only region in the Western Hemisphere with a steady supply of the critical minerals needed to produce EV batteries, including cobalt, nickel, graphite and lithium.

Ontario also provides easy access to the North American auto market – the world’s largest – and has a robust economy and stable government.

And, adds Wildeboer, “It’s a great place to live and work.”

With an industry going back well over a century, Ontario is North America’s second largest vehicle producing jurisdiction – after its neighbour Michigan – with 5 global OEMs and 700+ parts makers. And because vehicles are designed and made by people, the province keeps the talent pipeline primed by way of 12 leading universities and 24 colleges with auto-focused programs.

“The Ontario government understands the auto industry and where its headed,” says Wildeboer.

Major EV investments in Ontario

Bottom line? The Ontario government has put supports in place to ensure the industry succeeds now and well into the future. Automakers are taking notice, making major investments. Stellantis will begin plug-in and battery EV production at its re-tooled Windsor plant in 2024. GM is bringing production of its BrightDrop EV600 vehicle to its Ingersoll Ontario plant. And Ford will soon begin production of five new EV models at its Oakville facility.

Two Martinrea workers in a sterile manufacturing environment
At the height of the first COVID wave in 2020, when auto supply chains were severely interrupted, Martinrea demonstrated its ability to be nimble – and community oriented. The company pivoted production at one of its plants to manufacture 10 million face masks for employees, hospitals, banks and government.

An integrated North American auto industry

Still, as Wildeboer points out, Ontario’s industry is highly integrated with the U.S. – and vice versa – and it’s this integration that makes it possible for the North American auto industry, and all its players, to compete globally.

For instance, parts and components cross the border as many as eight times before being installed in an assembly plant in either country, with most vehicles 50 per cent “Canadian”, 50 per cent “American.”

Martinrea reflects this reality. Each facility is its own “centre of excellence” that contributes to the company’s operations on both sides of the border.

“We succeed when they all succeed, ” Wildeboer maintains.

What’s next for Martinrea? “We’re going to continue to grow the company by delivering leading-edge engineering solutions that meet the changing needs of our customers.”

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