Mexican sales cool slightly

Ever so slowly, the torrid pace of the Mexican auto industry is cooling.

October sales are the latest example. Sales of cars and light trucks rose just 1.1 percent for the month. That brought the increase for the year to 9.0 percent. That's a healthy increase by anyone's measure.

But after a 28.3 percent increase en route to a record 2000, and double-digit increases in the first three months of the year, sales have slowed considerably. A 1.8 percent decline in September was the first monthly decline since June of 1999.

The production side is even cooler. In October, the drop was 9.1 percent. That marked the fifth straight monthly decline. For the year, Mexican output of 1.54 million vehicles is off 3.5 percent from the first 10 months of 2000. Mexico's annual output had risen sharply in each of the last five years.

October sales results echoed automakers' trends for the year. BMW, for example, saw a 65.0 percent increase in sales in October; sales are up 52.4 percent for the year.

DaimlerChrysler's gain for the month was 17.5 percent; it's 26.1 percent ahead of its 10-month pace for 2000. But General Motors, the market leader, saw sales slip 18.1 percent in October. The company is 2.4 percent behind its year-ago pace.

Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen have been the biggest contributors to Mexico's production decline this year. VW production of the New Beetle has dropped 26.0 percent in 2001.

Ford Motor's October output of 21,287 vehicles was down 29.2 percent from the year-ago month. Production for the Mexican market and for export fell. Through October, Ford Motor's output was 14.3 percent behind last year's pace.

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