“The truth is we never left.” Those were the words of Ford Motor Company’s Mexico president Gabriel López yesterday when he advised that two new plants are set to begin operating in Mexico this year.
The auto maker, which last month canceled plans to build a new assembly plant in San Luis Potosí, has also seen an increase in sales despite a social media campaign to boycott the firm.
López said new plants in Irapuato, Guanajuato, and Hermosillo, Sonora, will add 170,000 square meters of production area to the company’s presence in Mexico.
The Irapuato factory will produce vehicles for export to the United States and elsewhere while that in Hermosillo will build diesel engines.
López emphasized that Ford is not going away and never said it would.
He reiterated the company’s earlier message that the San Luis Potosí factory, a US $1.6-billion investment, was killed as a result of changes in consumer preferences in the U.S., who are buying larger vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs. The new factory was to have built smaller cars, such as the Focus.
“The decision . . . was the correct one for shareholders, and not a response to political concerns,” López said, in reference to U.S. President Donald Trump’s stand on keeping automotive production at home.
Whatever the reason, the move did not sit well with many Mexicans, some of whom began promoting the hashtag #NoCompresFord, or “Don’t Buy Ford,” on social media. At least two large firms announced they would no longer buy Ford vehicles, along with some municipal and state governments.
But the campaign appears to have had no effect on sales, which rose 4.6% in January over December’s figures, similar to last year’s growth of 5% in the same period, according to the Mexican Automotive Industry Association.
The company sold 7,759 units last month, up from last year’s 7,416, despite the boycott threat and a less stable political and economic climate.
Fleet sales represent only 10% of Ford’s Mexico sales. The majority of buyers are individuals, many of whom went last month for the Figo, a model built in India. It was one of the 15 most popular models among buyers in January.
Ford México said in December it would seek to repeat its 2016 double-digit sales growth in 2017, but that may prove difficult due to higher interest rates, a 10% increase in sticker prices and a 20-point decline in consumer confidence last month, reported CNN Expansión.