The automotive industry is experiencing exceptional change and disruption, which includes: transition to EVs, new OEM entrants, critical mineral supply for EVs and hybrids (not ICEs), and increasing manufacturing capacity for batteries and EVs.
At the same time, opportunities abound not only for automotive manufacturers, suppliers and dealers, but also for supply chains in other industries and for all levels of government. Advances such as electrification and autonomous vehicles and shifts in consumer choices driven by the desire for sustainability and on-demand mobility, are spurring technological developments across the sector.
We assist all types of automotive clients in navigating this evolving and highly regulated landscape, as innovative incumbents and agile new players alike embrace new technologies and chart the future of personal and commercial mobility. Whether in commercial, regulatory or advocacy matters, our clients benefit from our efficient, practical legal solutions that align with commercial business objectives. With valuable in-house experience with automotive companies in legal, governance and leadership roles, our lawyers have a unique understanding to support designers, suppliers, original equipment manufacturers, technology developers, distributors and service providers.
A Multi-Disciplinary Legal Team
Our team is backed by collaborative and experienced lawyers from all areas of the firm. Our expertise includes:
Our Capital Projects and Construction team combines our deep automotive industry insight with legal know-how to offer seamless assistance in the development, financing, permitting and operation of greenfield and brownfield projects, including EV-charging and other EV-related infrastructure projects. We also help foster partnerships and collaborations among governmental bodies, Indigenous communities, and other stakeholders to support automotive advancements. Our expertise includes:
- Navigating regulatory & environmental requirements: Identifying and assisting in obtaining key approvals and permits, and leveraging opportunities in government policies and initiatives for the construction and operation of automotive facilities.
- Identifying government incentives and other opportunities: Forging partnerships with government bodies, and staying informed of government incentives, tax breaks, grants and subsidies for automotive infrastructure projects.
- Developing contracts: Drafting and negotiating contracts for manufacturing plants, distribution centres and other automotive facilities.
- Risk management: Helping identify and manage risks associated with project financing, delays and defects.
- Resolving disputes: Keeping projects on track by dealing with construction disputes and regulatory issues.
- Focusing on sustainability: Infusing each decision with a sustainability lens and identifying related risks and opportunities.
Learn more about our Capital Projects experience
Corporate and M&A
With abundant domestic, cross-border and international transactional expertise, our M&A lawyers advise automotive industry participants on all types of public and private mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and distressed sale processes. We have also assisted clients, including one of the world's largest auto manufacturers, overhaul and update their supplier agreements.
We leverage our deep automotive industry expertise in litigation, finance, regulatory, technology and insolvency to deliver true value to leading OEMs, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers and sector specific infrastructure and technology developers. Our team understands the unique risks and opportunities facing automotive industry players, including the unique ecosystem of relationships and complex supply chains.
Learn more about our Corporate and M&A experience.
Corporate Finance and Financial Services
Our Corporate Finance and Financial Services lawyers are industry leaders in complex financing transactions in Canada and regularly provide creative finance solutions to some of the largest automotive industry players as well as new entrants.
We advise on financial transactions including debt facilities, public and private debt capital market issuances, loan and lease portfolio securitizations and financings, third party customer financing and leasing programs, including OEM subvention arrangements, dealer floorplan financings, rental program securitizations, distressed and restructured debt matters, asset-based loans, and mezzanine commercial loan transactions.
We handle all types of dispute resolution—mediation, arbitration and litigation—appearing before all levels of court in Canada. We have been lead counsel on many of the highest profile matters in Canada's automotive industry. We regularly advise on:
- class actions;
- product liability matters;
- regulatory enforcement matters;
- sales and marketing liability (including warranties); and
- commercial and dealer disputes.
Various auto manufacturers have relied on us in contested and settlement-focused defences, which has given us valuable experience developing and executing litigation strategies that best advance business priorities and builds credibility with courts and other parties.
A significant portion of our work involves cross-border claims and claims made in conjunction with regulatory processes or recalls. Accordingly, we have deep familiarity with U.S. law concerning auto liability and regulatory obligations and exposures. We are comfortable managing the global strategic impacts of multi-jurisdictional litigation processes and the interrelationships among litigation defences, regulatory investigations and recall obligations.
Regulatory & Government Affairs
We help automotive industry participants with the complex domestic and global regulations they face, including:
- vehicle and equipment safety and conformity;
- zero emission vehicle sales mandates and incentives;
- consumer protection;
- equipment (including charging infrastructure and repair tools);
- dealer licensing;
- all environmental matters (including material and chemical conformity, stationary environmental, transportation of dangerous goods, and circular economy/producer responsibility mandates and programs);
- occupational safety and worker's compensation;
- "right to repair"
- lobbying and government incentives;
- trade; and
- tax (including luxury tax).
Our automotive clients rely on our strategic advice through every stage of the employment relationship, including:
- Hiring: Drafting best practice contracts, advising on enforceability of employment contracts and drafting compensation policies.
- Administration: Working with you on appropriate accommodations, disciplinary measures, and workplace investigations.
- Ending relationships: Structuring severance packages and drafting separation agreements.
We also advise on labour and union matters, collective bargaining and the range of other issues that can arise from reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, occupational health and safety issues, compensation concerns, and pensions and benefits arrangements. Our services include advice and litigation support in claims of wrongful and constructive dismissal, class actions and restrictive covenants. We also act as counsel in grievance arbitrations.
Learn more about our Employment Services experience.
Mining and Critical Minerals
The transition to electric vehicles will rapidly change the commodity mix that supports vehicle production. Critical minerals, including those required for battery production, are seeing renewed exploration and development activities in Canada. Nickel, copper, cobalt, and lithium use is projected to rise considerably.
Government supports are ramping up for critical minerals exploration and development, and for collaborations to build battery plants and retool the automotive sector for the transition to electrification. Our Mining group is actively assisting issuers in the activities and projects that will be essential to a successful transition. Additionally, with Canada's good fortune of hosting more than 50% of its capital markets activities in mining, there are ample opportunities for project and capital exposure globally.
Opportunities in green and brownfield assets in Canada are further spurring Canada's exploration, development, and mining activities to support a new range of automotive industry demands, both domestically and with Canada's trading partners.
Learn more about our Mining and Critical Minerals experience.
Our specialist tax lawyers are an integral part of the structuring and negotiation of our clients' transactions and litigation. Our automotive industry clients rely on our sophisticated tax planning advice in areas such as income tax, commodity (sales) tax, luxury tax and transfer pricing. We also assist in the implementation of tax-efficient transactions to help our clients maximize investment and operational returns.
In the context of litigation, we likewise provide advice and support to ensure tax-efficient settlements and/or recoveries.
Learn more about our Tax experience.
Having notable expertise and strengths in international trade and investment law means that we can offer our automotive industry clients truly strategic advice on import/export issues, customs and trade, and other cross-border issues. We have worked extensively with OEMs, automotive equipment manufacturers and suppliers to mitigate risks and solve problems with customs and regulatory agencies globally, often in real time, in the trade and movement of essential products.
We also support dispute resolution matters related to trade agreements that pertain to the automotive sector.
Learn more about our Trade experience.
Privacy, Technology and Intellectual Property
Electrification, EV infrastructure, autonomous and connected vehicles, vehicle and ride-sharing applications, V2X communication, in-car purchases and features on demand, process improvements across the supply chain – the list of automotive sector innovations is constantly evolving. Our technology lawyers assist our automotive clients on how to best protect their interests and remain nimble. As automotive companies continue to adapt their product and service offerings amidst constant innovation, we can advise on a variety of matters, including:
- procurement and licensing of technology;
- commercialization of technology to both dealers and end-user customers;
- privacy, data protection and cybersecurity;
- registration and enforcement of intellectual property rights; and
- compliance of marketing and advertising programs.
Learn more about our Technology and IP experience.
Our Commitment to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)
Bennett Jones' extensive experience in the Canadian ESG landscape makes us an invaluable partner on the path to net zero. With the automotive sector playing a crucial role in achieving net zero, we help our automotive sector clients identify and implement ESG mechanisms as key decision-making tools to reach this goal:
- We help manufacturers working in Canada to navigate the nuances of Canadian ESG regulation, and to assess the sustainability of their operations accordingly.
- We understand the existing and rapidly developing regulatory requirements specific to Canada, such as circular economy regulations, extended producer obligations and upcoming modern slavery legislation.
- We collaborate with various local stakeholders, build relationships with Indigenous communities and address ESG litigation risks specific to Canada.