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Mexico's Auto Market A Runaway

Growth has OEM’s ramping up investments in a major way.

By Charles W. Thurston, Latin America Correspondent

Published July 24, 2012
Mexico's ever-expanding automotive market is setting new production records as international OEM investors pour more money into the country. Mexico is able to compete with China, given close proximity and cultural ties to the United States, so supply chain investments also are on the rise. As a result, some U.S. cities, like San Antonio, Texas, are positioning themselves as distribution and management hubs servicing Mexico's transportation arteries into automotive production centers.

Mexico’s production of cars and light trucks hit a record high over the first five months of this year at 1.15 million units, up 12.5 percent over the prior year period, according to Asociacion Mexicana de la Industria Automotriz (AMIA), the national automobile industry association. Exports of 946,000 vehicles were up 13.7 percent in the same comparison. And domestic sales were up 17 percent to 80,000 vehicles in May, compared to May 2011.

The top five global automotive paint suppliers to Mexico's automotive industry—DuPont, BASF, PPG, AkzoNobel, and Sherwin-Williams, according to a new sector study by ReportsnReports—will be able to add sales volume by sectoral expansion as well as competition. Mexico, which is already the fifth-largest vehicle exporter and the eighth-largest producer in the world, is poised to move up in global automotive rankings.

Among new OEM investments, Nissan announced plans to invest up to $2 billion for a new manufacturing complex at Aguascalientes, in Aguascalientes state, in central Mexico. When the plant opens next year, Nissan will have a one million auto production capacity in Mexico, and will be the largest OEM in the county. Honda is now building a new $800 million plant in Celaya, Guanajuato state, also in central Mexico.

Ford also will invest $1.3 billion in its Hermosillo, Sonora state plant in the northwest. Similarly, Volkswagen’s Audi unit announced in May that it will invest about €1 billion in a new SUV plant in Mexico, with a production start in 2016. And Chrysler is expanding its Saltillo, Coahuila state location in the northeast.Possible OEM investments include a $1 billion joint deal between Nissan and Daimler to assemble passenger vehicles for the domestic market and for export to the U.S. and Canada, with a startup as early as 2014.

Among parts suppliers, GKN Driveline announced the opening of its third forge in Celaya, Guanajuato state, in central Mexico, with an investment of $11.5 million, with plans for cumulative investment of $100 million over a three-year period. Germany's Hella also will invest $97 million in an Irapuato-based lighting plant in Guanajuato state, with a 2013 start up. And Denso Mexico plans to build a new plant in Silao, Guanajuato state, at a cost of $57 million, with a 2013 start up.

Such investment has U.S. cities at odds to attract supportive investment. One regional U.S. initiative to attract funds is the Texas-Mexico Automotive Supercluster initiative, spearheaded by Texas' Bexar County, whichconsists of the states of Texas, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and San Luis Potosi. "Texas is well-positioned to benefit from Mexico's growing prominence," said Caroline Alexander, a
at TIP Strategies, in Austin.

"Assembly plants located in Texas can easily source from suppliers in Northeastern Mexico. Strong transportation linkages via the NAFTA Superhighway and rail connections make this possible. NAFTA as well as numerous foreign trade zones and inland ports facilitate this cross-border sourcing," said Alexander, who co-authored a study for Bexar County, advocating automotive investment linked to Mexico.

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