Canada Border Blockades Leave Automakers Scrambling

Blockades of the U.S.-Canada border continued to leave some major carmakers short of crucial parts, forcing companies to shut down plants from Ontario to Alabama on Friday.

Toyota said the effective closure of the Ambassador Bridge, a busy crossing connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, had led to “periodic downtime” at its engine plants in West Virginia and Alabama, as well as factories in Canada and Kentucky, and that disruptions were likely to continue through the weekend.

Other automakers said their operations were open, though they were not sure how long they would be able to keep them going.

General Motors said Friday that the company’s production was “running at relatively normal levels.” And Stellantis, which owns Jeep, Chrysler, Ram and other brands, said all its North America plants had started Friday morning, but that the situation remained “incredibly fluid.”

Ford said Friday morning that its plants were running at reduced capacity in Oakville and Windsor, and that its Ohio assembly plant was down as a result of a parts shortage stemming from the blockade. “We hope this situation is resolved quickly because it could have widespread impact on all automakers in the U.S. and Canada,” Said Deep, a spokesman, said.

Truck drivers and members of far-right groups are protesting vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions in Canada. They have also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

As Canada headed into its fourth day of major disruptions, manufacturers and logistics companies were trying to find workarounds to get products where they needed to go, including using crossings hundreds of miles away.

Jennifer Frigger-Latham, the vice president of sales and marketing at Emo Trans, a logistics company, said that businesses that needed to ship auto parts, food and other goods across the border were paying extra to reroute the freight through Buffalo, where the crossing remained open, at least for now.

“In the current market, people are so used to delays and frustrations because of Covid, they’re much quicker to react these days and throw money at the problem,” she said.

Canadian border officials were allowing some companies to send goods through other ports of entry without having to refile documents. U.S. customs officials were assisting that effort by adding personnel and screening lines at those alternate crossings to keep people and goods flowing.

But Linda Dynes, the executive vice president of Canadian operations for Farrow, a 100-year-old custom broker, said finding alternate routes was not always easy.

One crossing between New Brunswick and Maine had not been consistently open over the last week, she said. Protesters may try to block another between Saskatchewan and North Dakota, and the Peace Bridge connecting Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo could be shut down this weekend. On Thursday, protesters clogged the Ottawa airport.

“It seems like every time you find an alternative path, it gets blocked,” Ms. Dynes said.

Domestic spot prices for shipping had tripled in some cases, causing many companies to suspend shipments. “They are taking a wait-and-see approach,” she said.

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