Mexico's auto industry is showing the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Even as Mexico's sales fall, its vehicle production is rising. And while vehicle export shipments boom, import sales are taking a bigger share of Mexico's market.
New-car and truck sales slipped for the fourth straight month in September. Makers reported 53,479 sales, down 3.3 percent from last year. Car sales were flat at 36,505, and light-truck sales fell to 16,974, down 9.7 percent.
In the United States, where vehicle exports traditionally are relatively low, increased import sales historically have triggered cutbacks in domestic production.
Mexico is behaving differently. Imported cars and trucks captured 35.6 percent of September sales, up from 29.9 percent last year. Import-car sales nearly doubled; import trucks were down 20 percent.
Yet, Mexican production surpassed September 1998's by 13 percent, or more than 15,000 vehicles.
This year, Mexican demand for imported cars has risen at the same time that U.S., Japanese and German automakers cultivate Mexico as a North American production base.
In September, Volkswagen de Mexico exported 30,358 New Bee-tles and Jettas - a 55 percent increase over a year earlier. At the same time, sales of imported Volkswagen Pointers, Passats and Derbys rose 109 percent.
General Motors sales fell about 1 percent in September. But thanks to a rush on new U.S.-built Malibus, import-car sales more than doubled for the month. Seven times as many imported Chrysler-brand cars were sold as in September 1998 because of the shift of Neon production from Mexico to the United States.
The numbers were small, but sales of imported Mercedes-Benz vehicles quadrupled in September, and sales of imported Audis doubled.