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By on June 15, 2018

By Arleta Sziler

This was the title of the annual Automotive Parts Manufacturer’s Association (APMA) conference that took place on June 7th, 2018 in Windsor, Ontario at the beautiful Alumni Skyline Room at St. Clair College for the Arts.  The conference was full of information, innovation and, more importantly, inspiration.

What is AMPA?

The APMA (www.apma.ca), founded in 1952, is Canada’s national association that represents OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing). OEM are producers of parts, equipment, tools, supplies, advanced technology, and services for the automotive industry worldwide. The Association and its members account for 90% of  the independent parts production in Canada. In 2017, automotive parts shipments were over $32 billion and the industry employed over 96,000 people. Its’ fundamental objective is to promote original equipment (O.E.) to the automotive supply manufacturing industry, both domestically and internationally. APMA provides important representation to both federal and provincial governments, supports regional government initiatives and creates and executes global marketing initiatives in order to develop trade and business opportunities for its membership.  For many years APMA has worked agreements with its counterparts in Brazil, Europe, India, Japan, Mexico, China, and the United States. These agreements have been formed to promote an exchange of market information and to create strategic alliances to strengthen Canada’s position in the global automotive industry.

APMA Conference:  June 7th, 2018, Windsor, Ontario

APMA 2018 conference gathered over 350 participants and a few dozens exhibitors.

This year’s participants hailed mainly from Canadian automotive manufacturers but there were also others from USA and Mexico. There were many plenary sessions that encouraged innovation, promoted leading edge technologies, and improved process management methods in the competitive market.

During the networking breaks, participants had a chance to get to know each other better and take their networks to the next level. The afternoon plenary session brought forth a NAFTA Panel with three Panelists:  Sean Donnelly – President and CEO of Arcelormittal Dofasco (Hamilton, Ontario), Kristin Dziczek –  Vice-President Industry Labor and Economics Centre for Automotive Research (Michigan) and Tim Quinlan Director – Wells Fargo Securities LLC Wells Fargo & Co. Everyone listened intently, knowing the current political situation at hand in the United States.  

One of the participants and speakers was engineer Mark Zimny, Founder and CEO of  Promation. Since 1995, this company located in Toronto area has been supplying robotic machinery, tools and special systems to automotive, nuclear and aerospace industries. It also ships products to the US, Mexico, Korea, Japan, S. Africa, Argentina, China and Poland.

As Mark Zimny said: “APMA 2018 was well attended and had a great cross section of manufacturers and other stakeholders. I reconnected with many of my customers and I got a great value for my ticket.  The NAFTA presentation was very good, [and provided] an update on the market. The president of APMA gave us great insight to the government fighting for the industry and for us, which gave many of us comfort. I appreciate the courtesy of the US speakers reflecting on NAFTA talks throughout the conference.”

This year’s conference high-profile speaker, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, was a no show, due to the high tension situation in Washington DC.  Mr. Peter Hall, Chief Economist of Export Development in Canada, spoke in her place.

As is known, US President Donald Trump recently imposed American tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. It started the trade war with Canada’s over more than $30-billion worth of goods.  In response, the Canadian lumber industry will be imposing heavy U.S. duties on softwood next month.

Looks like our continent’s three states–Mexico, USA and Canada have to sit down again. When?  Maybe after the Mexican election on July 1st and the U.S. midterm elections in November.  And  maybe it could get worse. It could bring threats to impose a 25-per-cent tariff on imports of cars and trucks, a move that would devastate Canada’s manufacturing sector. Only Canadian sector..? The question remains: what is an American car…?

In conclusion, there are a few suggestions on strategy choices for today’s uncertainty: capitalizing on hesitation, preparing for the upcoming political tsunami, to go where others won’t, and to not be outsmarted.                                                                                             

We’ll know next year if these suggestions were carried out. Stay tuned for the 2019 APMA Conference in Windsor!                                                

Photo Arleta Sziler -APMA President Flavio Volpe at the 2018 Conference on June 6th, 2018.