The general pattern of development for wealthy nations was a transition from a primary industry based economy to a manufacturing based one, and then to a service based economy. At its World War II peak in 1944, Canada’s manufacturing sector accounted for 29% of GDP,[66] declining to 10.37% in 2017. Canada has not suffered as greatly as most other rich, industrialized nations from the pains of the relative decline in the importance of manufacturing since the 1960s.[66] A 2009 study by Statistics Canada also found that, while manufacturing declined as a relative percentage of GDP from 24.3% in the 1960s to 15.6% in 2005, manufacturing volumes between 1961 and 2005 kept pace with the overall growth in the volume index of GDP.[67] Manufacturing in Canada was especially hit hard by the financial crisis of 2007–08. As of 2017, manufacturing accounts for 10% of Canada’s GDP,[60] a relative decline of more than 5% of GDP since 2005.

Central Canada is home to branch plants to all the major American and Japanese automobile makers and many parts factories owned by Canadian firms such as Magna International and Linamar Corporation.