New manufacturing technology at Mazda's Mexico plant
PHOTO ESSAY

Inside Mazda's Salamanca factory

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Within four months, Nissan, Honda and Mazda have opened assembly plants in Mexico.
 
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Mazda3s on display at a local Mazda dealership in Mexico

Mazda’s new Salamanca, Mexico, plant had its official opening on Feb. 27. The factory is the latest in a string of assembly plants opened in Mexico by Japanese automakers. The Salamanca plant is Mazda’s first North American production base since the automaker stopped making cars in 2012 at the plant it shares with Ford Motor Co. in Flat Rock, Mich.

Mazda expects local production to help it boost sales in the growing Mexican market. That would continue a trend of rising Japanese sales there. In 2009, Japanese brands had only 23 percent of the Mexico market, compared with the Detroit 3’s 57 percent. By last year, the Japanese brands’ collective share had shot up to 42 percent, while the Detroit 3’s shrank to 35 percent.

Staff Reporter Hans Greimel was on the ground at the opening of the Salamanca plant and captured images of the technology and workers at the plant. Click here for more on Japanese automakers in Mexico.

All photos courtesy Hans Greimel unless otherwise noted.

Credit: Mazda

Credit: Mazda

The new factory uses some of Mazda’s most advanced manufacturing technologies, including a new stamping process that can simultaneously stamp four sheets of high-tensile steel and deliver more parts from a single sheet. Here, workers receive and visually inspect stampings from the new process.

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The extensive use of robots in the body shop shows this is not just a low-wage, high-labor-content factory.

Credit: Mazda

Credit: Mazda

Japanese trainers work with Mexican factory workers.

In October, Mazda will begin operations at an engine-machining shop adjacent to its final-assembly factory. That will help it boost local content from about 50 percent now toward the 62.5 percent it needs to achieve within five years to continue to qualify for tariff-free shipments to the United States and Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Credit: Mazda

You can reach Shiraz Ahmed at sahmed@crain.com.