Ford and Daimler to close B.C. joint venture employing 200

A worker at Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation | AFCC

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and Daimler AG are shutting down a B.C.-based joint venture focused on fuel cell technology in a bid to move this expertise in house.

Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation (AFCC) will cease operations by the end of the month, however, some employees have been offered jobs by Ford, Daimler and Ballard Power Systems Inc. (TSX:BLD), AFCC said.

The joint venture employs about 200 people at a Burnaby office adjacent to Ballard.

The B.C. company spun out of Ballard in 2008 when Ford and Daimler acquired Ballard Power’s fuel-cell business for automobiles.

Ballard eventually sold its remaining stake in the joint venture to the automakers.

“It’s not a surprise they [Ford and Daimler] brought the development back in house,” said engineer and Electron Communications consultant Matthew Klippenstein, who previously worked for both Ballard and AFCC.

He said the automakers were likely evaluating why most of their engineering teams were based near their global headquarters, save for the fuel-cell team in Metro Vancouver.

But Klippenstein said the closure of AFCC compared to the massive layoffs that hit BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB) years ago in Waterloo, Ont.

While some in the industry were worried the southern Ontario region would experience a contraction in talent, the layoffs helped spin off other technology ventures by spreading talent around.

“It’s not so much a step back as maybe a side-step for the [fuel cell] industry,” Klippenstein said.

Ford of Canada spokesman Matt Drennan-Scace told Business in Vancouver in an email the decision for Ford and Daimler to take its fuel-cell stack development in house comes "after reaching development milestones."