Ford commits largest auto investment ever in Mexico

MEXICO CITY -- Ford Motor Co.’s $3 billion investment in three manufacturing projects is the largest ever made in the Mexican automotive industry, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon said Friday.

“It’s a great day for Mexico,” said Calderon, who has made the automotive industry one of the four pillars of a six-year economic growth plan.

A few minutes earlier at a ceremony held in Los Pinos, Calderon’s official residence, Ford CEO Alan Mulally announced the investment to an audience of government ministers and the national auto industry’s hierarchy.

The sum includes $1 billion to assemble the Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback for North America at the Cuautitlan plant, near Mexico City, starting in the first quarter of 2010.

Mulally also said Ford will expand its Chihuahua engine plant to make diesel engines for light- and medium-duty trucks and build a new small car transmission plant in a joint venture with German supplier Getrag in the city of Irapuato, Guanajuato state.

Accompanied by Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, and Louise Goeser, president of Ford Mexico, Mulally said Ford’s contribution to the $3 billion total is $2.4 billion, with the rest coming from “the local supply base.”

"We consider Mexico to be a key area for our business in the short and long term," Mulally said in a speech.

"We are convinced Mexico's geographic location, economic stability and experienced work force make it (Mexico) a perfect for us," he added.

Ford has operated in Mexico since 1925. It opened its Cuautitlan assembly plant in 1964 and currently assembles F-Series trucks there. F-Series production will be wound down and eventually stopped, Mulally told reporters at a press conference held later in a downtown Mexico City hotel.

Mulally said Ford will assemble a 4-door Fiesta sedan and a Fiesta hatchback in Cuautitlan, which is on the northern edge of the Mexican capital. “But we have not announced the configuration of the hatchback,” he said.

The company, in press photos, provided photos of both a five-door and three-door Fiesta hatchback.

During the Los Pinos ceremony Calderon said Ford planned to invest $1 million in Cuautitlan, $800 million in Chihuahua and $500 million in the projected small car transmission plant in Irapuato.

However, Mulally declined to confirm the amounts when a reporter asked him to do so.

You can reach Stephen Downer at sdowner44@yahoo.com

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