Canada, and especially its rich province of Ontario, will lose their status in the top 10 world vehicle makers unless governments do more to attract investment, the head of the Canadian Auto Workers Union warned on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters, Canadian Auto Workers [union] head Buzz Hargrove warned Ontario’s Finance Committee that the province, once the leader in automotive investment, has been losing out to locations further south which the union says were more willing to offer cash incentives and tax breaks to attract investments.

Of 17 new North American car plants built since 1990, just one is in Canada. Seven were built in the US deep south, and six in Mexico. The rest were elsewhere in the United States, Reuters noted.

Hargrove urged the committee to come up with money to attract new business to the shrinking Ontario car industry.

According to Reuters, Canada could lose up to three large assembly plants, although it is also vying for a number of new plants. Planned closures include DaimlerChrysler‘s Pillette Road plant in Windsor and Ford’s Ontario Truck plant in Oakville, Ontario.

Reuters said a new plant being considered by Mitsubishi Motors and a seventh assembly plant by Toyota are among the potential new ventures up for grabs.

According to Reuters, the provincial government has remained non-committal on its stance on funding to the automotive sector, but is open at least to listening to a number of groups including the CAW.

Reuters noted that DaimlerChrysler promised a new multimillion dollar plant to be built in Windsor by 2005 during the 2002 contract talks, but only if it could secure a major financial commitment from the government.