"Most of our suppliers are running at or near capacity" - APMA president Steve Rodgers.

"Most of our suppliers are running at or near capacity" - APMA president Steve Rodgers.

APMA is Canada's national association representing OEM producers of parts, equipment, tools, supplies and services for the worldwide automotive industry.

The Association was founded in 1952 and its members account for 90%, directly or indirectly, of independent parts production in Canada.

The Association provides representation to both Federal and Provincial Governments, supports regional government initiatives and creates global marketing initiatives. APMA president, Steve Rodgers, talked to Simon Warburton at the Detroit Auto Show.

j-a: What is your current state of membership and how influential
do you feel Canadian suppliers are?

SR: "We have around 200 members, of which around 75 are regular, production members to supply parts to OEMs.

"Because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and going back before that, there is no doubt the Canadian automotive supply industry is as developed as any region in the world.

"We have regular interaction and lobbying with, the Federal government that goes up to the Prime Minister's [Stephen Harper] office. We have interaction at the Provincial and Federal level.

"We have interaction with Industry Canada and met with them in Detroit [Auto Show]."

j-a: Is there overlapping between the Federal and Provincial layers of government in terms of APMA activity?

SR: "I would say we have an understanding, with a relationship with the government. They listen to us very carefully at both levels."

j-a: Can you give an example of that cooperation?

"We have just had an announcement the Prime Minister made at Ford Oakville with a commitment to US$250m to support automotive development. It is low interest competitive loans."

j-a: To what extent have APMA members recovered from the collapse in consumer confidence a few years ago?

SR: "Obviously we are not all the way back, but the reality is we are back the vast majority of the way and most of our suppliers are running at or near capacity.

"In 2013, we expect to be getting back to previous peaks. It is interesting to note Canada's share of NAFTA production hit an all-time high in 2009 [as did] our sales in 2009. That did reflect a stronger banking system in Canada, but NAFTA [overall] was still down around 8.6m units."

j-a: To what extent do you work with your fellow-supplier bodies around the world?

SR: "With OESA we have regular interaction - we have a joint dinner with them [Dearborn, Michigan], on 28 February.

"We work very closely with our counterparts in Mexico and we have a bunch of interaction with international bodies such as India, CLEPA [Europe] and JAPIA [Japan - APMA met JAPIA at the Detroit Auto Show] - we do a number of events with them. We [also] work with the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters association."

j-a: Could more be done at a government level to help your members in terms of standardisation with other countries?

SR: "It is important for us to have harmonisation with the US and Mexico. Within Canada we would like to see better harmonisation between the Federal and Provincial policies."

j-a: You mentioned the Canadian banking system was strong - in fact your Governor of the Bank of Canada - Mark Carney - will shortly become Governor of the Bank of England. How has the strength of the dollar benefited APMA members?

SR: "We have a stronger Canadian dollar and it has remained strong because as the economy recovered, so [have] general resources and commodities.

"The suppliers to some extent, are doing today more with less."

j-a: How would you characterise industrial relations in the Canadian automotive sector?

SR: "The CAW did their settlement in 2012 and it was really without any strikes. We have had very few strikes recently.

"On average, industrial relations are pretty good at the moment. Only about 15% of our workforce is unionised - it is not anti-unionisation - 15% [membership] is applicable across the industry."

Last week Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, announced an Automotive Innovation Fund investment in Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) for an initiative to create jobs and growth in South West Ontario.

"Our Government is committed to helping Canada's automotive sector remain globally competitive and prosperous," said the Prime Minister. "[The]support will allow TMMC to produce a hybrid version of the Lexus Sport Utility Vehicle in Cambridge, the first hybrid model ever built in Canada.

"This milestone initiative to build greener more fuel efficient cars will advance Canadian innovation and increase our ability to compete internationally resulting in more high-paying, stable jobs."

The project will generate around 400 jobs at TMMC's Cambridge facility, and will involve building a new blended assembly line that will permit increased production of the current Lexus model. Production of the RX 450h hybrid is expected to begin in 2014.

Federal funding for the project is provided through the Automotive Innovation Fund (AIF), a $250m, five-year programme that supports strategic, large-scale research and development projects in the automotive sector.

Introduced in 2008, and renewed for another five years in January 2013, the AIF is designed to help automotive firms strengthen their capacity for innovation.