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A timeline of negotiations toward the Volkswagen battery plant in Canada

The Canadian Press   

Business Operations Environment & Sustainability Energy Manufacturing battery plant volkswagen vw

OTTAWA – March 15, 2021: Volkswagen AG announces its intention to build six new electric vehicle battery manufacturing plants by 2030.

March 17, 2022: Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne cold calls Scott Keogh, who was then the CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, and invites him to Canada for a meeting.

April 27, 2022: The regional board members of Volkswagen in North America travel to Toronto to meet with Champagne and Vic Fedeli, minister of economic development in Ontario. Some executives from Volkswagen’s headquarters in Germany join virtually.

May 9-13, 2022: Champagne travels to Germany for the first time and meets with Volkswagen executives.

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May 22-26, 2022: Champagnes speaks again with Volkswagen leadership on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

July 7: Volkswagen launches a new subsidiary, PowerCo, to manage its battery factories and breaks ground on its first gigafactory in Salzgitter, Germany.

Aug. 16, 2022: President Joe Biden signs the Inflation Reduction Act into law, upping the ante on what Canada would likely to have to offer to lure investment in clean technology, including battery manufacturing.

Aug. 23, 2022: Herbert Diess, CEO and board chairman of Volkswagen AG, and Champagne meet in Toronto to sign a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on sustainable battery manufacturing, cathode active material production and critical mineral supplies. The agreement includes setting up a Canadian office for PowerCo.

The agreement comes during a state visit to Canada by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Oct. 14, 2022: Fedeli travels to Germany where he delivers a “big pitch” at a meeting at Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, 230 km west of Berlin. Fedeli says his pitch trumpeted Ontario’s workforce talent in the auto and high-tech industries, as well as its abundant access to zero-emission electricity and its tariff advantage over the United States, believed to be Canada’s biggest competition for the new plant.

Nov. 7, 2022: A senior team from Volkswagen travels to London, Ont., where they meet with senior officials representing both Fedeli and Champagne, as well as with St. Thomas, Ont., Mayor Joe Preston.

Nov. 29 to Dec. 6, 2022: Champagne travels to Germany where he gives a “whole-Canada pitch” to 500 Volkswagen executives, board members and senior leaders across the company’s multiple brands.

Dec. 1, 2022: Volkswagen CEO Oliver Blume, who replaced Diess in September, and Champagne sign an add-on to the August agreement to begin looking for suitable Canadian sites for a gigafactory. Volkswagen is not yet committed but Blume says Canada is “the logical choice” for the company’s first overseas battery plant.

Dec. 13, 2022: A contingent of Volkswagen executives travels to Toronto to meet with Ontario Premier Doug Ford in his Queen’s Park office. Ford makes sure to hand out his cellphone number to all the executives. Three more meetings followed on Jan. 13, Feb. 8, and Feb. 23, 2023.

January 2023: Negotiations begin to heat up. PowerCo sets up shop in the Ontario Investment and Trade Centre on the 35th floor of an office tower above the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto.

March 2, 2023: Bill 63 receives Royal Assent in Ontario, adjusting the municipal boundaries so a 1,500-acre industrial parcel lies entirely in St. Thomas, and not also partly in the municipality of Central Elgin.

March 13, 2023: Volkswagen executives call Champagne and Fedeli and let them know their yearlong pitch had been successful. The news is made public later that day.

April 21, 2023: PowerCo CEO Frank Blome and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with Ford, Preston, Fedeli and Champagne, stage a big announcement in St. Thomas to formally unveil the battery plant plan.

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