Mercedes-Benz has opened a raw materials office in Canada as it pursues reliable sources of lithium and other critical minerals for its battery-electric vehicles.
Markus Schäfer, chief technology officer at the German automaker, said the new office, which opened March 1, will put the company in “daily contact” with stakeholders as it builds relationships with miners in North America.
“We are going more and more directly to the mine here to secure materials,” he said at the company’s annual environmental, social, and corporate governance conference March 30.
The automaker would not comment on the location of the new Canadian operation or how many staff it will employ, but Mercedes-Benz Canada spokesman Zakary Paget said the company has “made clear its significant interest” in exploring closer collaboration with Canada on all stages of the automotive value chain, including raw materials, production, and recycling.
“The company is in the very early stages of establishing a function in Canada to move these objectives forward and hopes to share more substantive details in the coming months.”
The office is expected to ramp up operations over the same period, Paget said in an email.
The addition footprint in Canada follows the signing of a non-binding memorandum of understanding between Mercedes-Benz and the federal government last August. The deal, struck during German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s official visit to Canada, included no firm commitments, but signaled the company’s intent to work more closely with Ottawa, particularly on natural resources development.
Volkswagen signed a comparable non-binding deal with the federal government during the German delegation’s visit to Canada. It also pledged to set up a Canadian office for its in-house battery unit PowerCo, and has moved quickly to put down roots in the country since. On March 13, it announced plans to build a battery cell manufacturing facility in St. Thomas, Ont.
Mercedes-Benz would not comment on whether its new raw materials office could lead to a more significant footprint in Canada in the future. The company’s Canadian unit operates solely as a sales and marketing business currently, employing about 250 staff.
At the company’s ESG conference, Schäfer said Mercedes-Benz is exploring further deals in Canada’s lithium and wider raw materials sectors. It signed an initial supply agreement last fall with Vancouver-based Rock Tech Lithium Inc., which owns a pre-production lithium project near Thunder Bay, Ont., and broke ground in March on a processing plant in Germany.