Automotive electronics component manufacturers find what they need in Ontario

With industry analysts predicting the worldwide market for automotive electronics – everything from safety and driver assistance systems to visual displays – will reach US$350 billion by 2023, parts makers are looking for an edge to get them a larger piece of the action.

Doing it right, first time out of the gate

Swiss-based TE Connectivity chose Markham, Ontario to build its Global Centre of Excellence for automotive lighting. It designs and engineers customized interior and exterior lighting solutions for nine of the world's biggest OEMs, including Toyota, GM, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, Honda, Nissan and BMW. Ambient lighting has become important for defining space, functionality and brand experience and it is big business.

"TE's ambient lighting business was created here in Ontario," says TE Canada's managing director Sam Alesio. "When TE decided to establish a Global Centre of Excellence for automotive lighting, we [TE Canada] were chosen, and it was the right decision, because we've just gone from strength to strength."

Head shot of Sam Alesio, Managing Director, TE Canada
Sam Alesio, Managing Director, TE Canada

Can location determine success? Absolutely!

In fact, Alesio attributes the company's success to its Ontario location.

"We do it right here, first time out of the gate," he says. "That's because Ontario has an automotive ecosystem second to none, from industry-leading OEMs and parts makers to centers conducting research in every area, including materials, optics and electronics. And Ontario's R&D tax credits can save companies between 40 and 60% of their development costs and that's significant."

The best engineers anywhere – no question about it

And then there's the engineering talent. Alesio can't say enough about that.

"The engineers coming out of Ontario universities are exceptional," says Alesio. "They're motivated and trained to think outside the box and that's essential if you want to remain a leader in any field and certainly in the automotive electronics area. It's all about anticipating what consumers need and want next, and delivering it dependably first time around."

Head shot of Michael Desnoyers, President and CEO, Etratech
Michael Desnoyers, President and CEO, Etratech

Etratech president and CEO Michael Desnoyers agrees. His Burlington-based company makes control components for vehicles coming off the assembly lines at OEMs that include Toyota, GM, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler and Hyundai. Controls are the "brains" of today's ever-smarter cars and Etratech designs and engineers them from the earliest stage of development.

"We have access to the best engineers and engineering technicians anywhere, no question about it," Desnoyers says. "They're focused on continuous innovation and quality, and they're experienced in the auto industry. They benefit from being located in an automotive hotbed."

 
The interior of a Cadillac XT5 luxury crossover showing the electronic shifter that communicates with Etratech's safety critical transmission
Etratech's controls help revolutionize the driving experience
A selection of electronic control components manufactured by Etratech
Etratech's control components
 

Safeguarding intellectual property – reputation is everything

Finally, for companies like TE Canada and Etratech, that are developing proprietary products for a number of manufacturers, Ontario's reputation for protecting intellectual property is also critical.

"We have manufacturing facilities in China as well as Ontario," says Desnoyers, "but we do all the R&D in Burlington and maintain all the IP here as well, and that's really important to our clients. They need to be sure that what we develop for them remains theirs."

Developing the vehicles of tomorrow – and the day after that

"Ontario really does have everything car companies need to develop and manufacture electronic components for today's vehicles – and the vehicles of tomorrow," says Alesio.

To demonstrate the industry's collective expertise, the government partnered with the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association to create the connected car, a showcase of working next generation technologies developed in Ontario. Now, the province is set to help create a testing ground for autonomous vehicles, making it possible for OEMs to be sure their technologies work in a real-life setting before the first car comes off the assembly line.

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