Volvo Halifax Assembly

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The Volvo Halifax Assembly Plant located in Halifax, Nova Scotia was opened on 11 June 1963 by Prince Bertil.[1] It was the first assembly plant Volvo opened outside of Sweden and the first non-domestic auto plant in North America. [2] Volvo decided to open to the plant to bypass hefty North American import tariffs on foreign goods and to capitalize on the newly signed Canadian/American Auto Pact.[3] The plant was operated by Volvo Canada Limited (now Volvo Cars of Canada Corporation) in Toronto, Ontario and bridged the gap between Volvo of North America (Rockleigh, New Jersey), Volvo headquarters and the flagship Torslanda plant in Gothenburg.

Halifax-Dartmouth and Bayer's Lake operations[edit]

The Halifax plant was unlike any other assembly plant Volvo was operating at the time. This was mainly due to the plants' trademark team system that assembled the entire vehicle at one station, which was extensively used later at Volvo Torslanda Assembly and then Volvo Kalmar Assembly. In 1966, annual production totaled over 3,700 cars. Volvo 122 S, 123 GT and 122 B18s were assembled in Halifax initially, the Volvo PV544 was introduced a year later. Halifax built 123 GT models like the 122 S were rebadged as "Canadian GT"s. Units produced at the plant typically came without auxiliary lights and had only one side view mirror, but came with a limited-slip differential and hazard flashers. Halifax built Canadian GTs were available in colours such as light green (91), light blue (95), and dark blue (96) and are often seen with identification codes 5145 or 5324. For three years the plant operated out of a harbourfront facility (an old sugar processing plant) located on Halifax Harbour's Eastern Passage.[4]

In 1967, the plant was moved to a newer 30,000-square-foot (2,787 m2) facility in Clayton Park, Nova Scotia (Bayer’s Lake) which enabled production to exceed 8,000 cars per year.[5] Cars were shipped from Sweden in CKD form, then assembled at the facility.[6] Production on average at the Dartmouth Plant was about 15 cars per day. At the new facility, production increased to over 36 cars a day.[7] And, in 1974, production at the plant increased to more than 12,000 vehicles a year. In 1993, the plant celebrated its 30th anniversary. To mark the occasion 940s built at the facility were affixed with a special roundel affixed to the rear quarter window.

While the plant was very successful,[8] on September 9, 1998 Volvo decided to close the Halifax plant and end its 225 jobs, citing globalization and NAFTA as two of the reasons. The last Volvo was built in Canada on 18 December 1998. The Bayer's Lake plant building at 115 Chain Lake Drive still stands.

Labour controversy and occupation[edit]

Shortly after the closure announcement the plant became the focus of a dispute between Volvo and the Canadian Auto Workers Union. On 21 October 1998,[9] thirty employees blockaded the plant after Volvo refused to pay what the union considered adequate severance pay and retirement benefits to the plant's employees.[10] After several days, Volvo backed down and agreed to the union's payment specifications.[11]

Legacy[edit]

The first Volvo produced at the facility, also the first Volvo produced outside of Sweden, is a black 1963 Volvo 122 B18 currently on permanent display at the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry in Stellarton, Nova Scotia.

In 1969, 26 Volvo bodies intended for the plant were dumped into the Bedford Basin after incurring severe water damage in transit across the Atlantic Ocean on a container ship.[12]

In 1980, two Canadians broke the Guinness World record for the fastest time around the world in a Halifax-built Volvo 245 DL nicknamed Red Cloud. Ken Langley and Gary Sowerby completed the feat in just 74 days, 1 hour and 11 minutes, smashing the previous record by over a month.[13]

Shortly before the plant's closure, popular Canadian comedy/satire show This Hour Has 22 Minutes and correspondent Mary Walsh filmed an entire segment at the plant.

The Canadian Museum of Science and Technology paid tribute to the plant by featuring a 1989 Volvo 740 GLE that had been produced at that plant in a permanent exhibit entitled "The Quest in Search of the Canadian Car".

Models produced[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.volvoamazonpictures.se/production/production.html
  2. ^ http://www.volvocars.com/en-ca/top/about/news-events/pages/default.aspx?itemid=9
  3. ^ Hargrove, Buzz. Laying It on the Line: Driving a Hard Bargain in Challenging Times. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2009. Print.
  4. ^ Chadwick, Kathleen. 40 Years: The Story of Volvo's First Forty Years in America. Rockleigh, NJ: Olle Alexson/Volvo Cars of North America, 1995. Print.
  5. ^ Volvo Canada Ltd. North York - Annual Report: New Halifax Operation Boosts Performance, 1967
  6. ^ Keenan, Greg. "Volvo to Close Halifax Plant." Globe and Mail [Toronto] 1998. Print.
  7. ^ Industrial Development and Port Activity in Halifax-Dartmouth G. B. Norcliffe. Canadian Public Policy / Analyse de Politiques. Vol. 6, No. 3 (Summer, 1980), pp. 533-541
  8. ^ Volvo of North America - Press Release: Northern Operations, 1973
  9. ^ Canadian Auto Workers. Press Department. Volvo Settles. 5 Nov. 1998. Print.
  10. ^ Government of Nova Scotia - Hansard of Legislative Proceedings (September 9, 1998)
  11. ^ Canadian Auto Workers. Press Department. Volvo Settles. 5 Nov. 1998. Print.
  12. ^ ftp://ftp2.cits.rncan.gc.ca/pub/geott/ess_pubs/224/224797/gscbul_590_e_2008_mn05.pdf
  13. ^ Sowerby, Garry. "A Thirty-year Take on Odyssey 77." Vancouver Sun, 2010