Celebrating 150 Years: A Look at the History of Canada’s Auto Industry for Automotive Maintenance Technicians


Oddly enough, Canada’s birth date is shared with another important milestone: the first Canadian-made automobile. In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday this year, it’s a great opportunity to look back on 150 years of the automotive industry in Canada. Despite there not being many big-name Canadian auto brands in today’s market, many of the most popular North American car brands were manufactured in Canada as early as the beginning of the 1900s, making Canada an important player in the auto industry.

Want to know more? Read on to learn about the history of Canada’s auto industry.

1867: Canada and the Country’s First Horseless Carriage Are Born

The year of 1867 was an important one for Canada. Not only was it when the Constitution Act was implemented and Canada became a country, but it was also the year that the country’s first Canadian-made vehicle was born.

In Stanstead, Quebec, a man named Henry Seth Taylor built the country’s first horseless carriage. Unfortunately for Henry Seth Taylor, his pioneering creation was fraught with bad luck. Named the Taylor Steam Buggy, the vehicle was powered by a simplistic coal boiler attached to a wagon-wheeled carriage. Sadly, during Quebec’s Stanstead Fair that year, the vehicle proved to be a bust. Something in the car malfunctioned, causing a steam hose to erupt. After repairing it Taylor drove his model along Canada’s streets. However, a year after the car’s debut Taylor ran it off the road during the country’s first official car crash.

1900 to 1929: The Car Manufacturing Boom That Created Jobs for Automotive Maintenance Technicians

Due to steep tariffs designed to discourage Canadians from buying foreign goods, American auto manufacturers started opening manufacturing plants in Canada as a work-around. Soon after, the main American manufacturers drove out smaller Canadian auto makers, and American brands dominated Canada’s manufacturing industry.

One of the biggest events in Canada’s automotive history occurred when Gordon McGregor partnered with Henry Ford to open the Ford Motor Company of Canada, a subsidiary of the American Ford brand that was completely autonomous. Windsor, Ontario, became a crucial manufacturer of Ford vehicles, and the Ontario-based firm was involved in the release of the famous Ford Model-T, which individuals who want to become a mechanic likely know as the first car priced affordably for the masses.

In addition to Ford making its way into Canada, in 1908 Colonel R.S. McLaughlin began producing a horseless carriage, which was known for having a very noisy engine. After careful negotiations, McLaughlin was able to start using popular Buick engines in his globally-recognized vehicle bodies. By 1918, McLaughlin’s company and Chevrolet merged to form General Motors of Canada Ltd., which McLaughlin was appointed President of.

The First World War accelerated the growth of Canada’s auto industry. Car manufacturers built thousands of vehicles to be sent overseas to battlefields. After the war, the economic boom of the Roaring Twenties gave many families the ability to purchase a car, creating an influx of jobs for many an automotive maintenance technician. By the end of the decade, Canada was the second largest auto manufacturer in the entire world.

1930 and Beyond: How We Got to the Industry Automotive Maintenance Technicians Know Today

Canada’s auto industry fell victim to the Great Depression, but quickly recovered as a result of the increased demand for vehicles that came with the Second World War. The auto industry continued to boom until the early ‘60s due to some rocky trade conditions. In response to this, the US and Canada formed the Canada-US Automotive Products Trade Agreement, which included several important components. It introduced tariff-free trade, mandated a base level of spending that US auto companies had to make in Canada, an agreement to build as many vehicles in Canada as the amount sold within the country’s borders, and several other conditions. This agreement took Canada’s auto industry to new heights.

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Canada’s auto manufacturing industry remains strong today

After many steady years, Canada’s auto industry has risen and sunk in accordance with industry events like new competitors entering the market. Although the Canada-US Auto Pact is no longer in effect today, Canada is still a big player in the auto industry as the 9th biggest auto manufacturer in the world.

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