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Jun 3, 2020

'Time to open up': Martinrea chair urges easing of restrictions

Never let a crisis go to waste: Martinrea CEO on adapting operations to COVID-19

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One of Canada’s top auto parts executives said the Canadian economy could rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic quicker than it did from the financial crisis of 2008, but nationwide lockdowns will need to be lifted soon.

“We’re getting through this and it could be that we’re coming back a little quicker than we did in 2008 and 2009,” Martinrea International Inc. executive chairman and co-founder Rob Wildeboer told BNN Bloomberg in a Wednesday interview.

However, Wildeboer – who is also director of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Counsel, which advises both the federal and Ontario governments – acknowledged that his industry has a head start given its "essential" status.

“I will say that we’ve worked very hard with the provincial and federal governments on the auto side,” he said. “We’ve been an essential industry so we’ve been open and able to do things.”

He added that despite encouraging May auto sales numbers, consumer demand for new cars still needs time to recover. For Wildeboer, that means getting people back to work. 

Canada has more than 92,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, with nearly 51,000 recoveries and about 7,500 fatalities. In Ontario, the country's largest consumer market, there have been about 29,000 confirmed cases, including 338 new cases on Wednesday. While the number of new reported cases dropped from previous days, the number of resolved cases in Ontario still stands at about 22,800 with a current death toll of 2,312. 

“I think on the demand side, May was surprising to the positive for me,” he said. “I think it’s very important to keep liquidity for the car-buyer.”

“But the most important thing is: We have to open our economy. Because, quite frankly, we’ve flattened the surge, but we’ve also done way too much, I’d say, in flattening the economy. It’s time to open up the lockdowns, get people back to work.”