Mexico's auto industry received a welcome respite from months of slipping volumes in October as retail sales rose nearly 33 percent.
But the upturn was somewhat deceptive, because October 1998 was a bad month for Mexican sales.
Car sales in particular outpaced year-ago levels with a 45 percent gain.
Imported vehicles continue to pick up momentum, with year-to-date volumes running nearly 13 percent ahead of 1998.
In all, Mexican retailers sold 58,738 cars and trucks in October, compared with 44,313 vehicles a year earlier. Car sales totaled 41,091 and trucks sales 17,647.
The comparison is somewhat skewed, however, because October 1998's results were depressed by economic fears in Mexico.
But there was still evidence of a rebound last month, at least partly because of pent-up demand after several months of sluggish sales. For the 10 months that ended Oct. 31, industry sales are still down by 1 percent from 1998.
Leasing helped Ford Motor Co. post a 28 percent uptick in October. In September, Ford's Mexican network began offering a two-year lease program that covers all Ford products.
DaimlerChrysler also has been pushing finance programs in the market.
The automaker is offering a 0 percent interest program for 18 months on some models, with market rates on 24-month purchases.
Volkswagen, which reclaimed the lead in passenger car sales for the month for the first time in years, remains less aggressive in its finance offerings.
'We're not doing as much as the competition,' said Thomas Kering, Volkswagen de Mexico spokesman.
'The market had a lot of trouble with bad consumer debt after 1995. We're being very careful and dragging our heels on credit.'
VW imports rose 210 percent for the month, mostly because of sales of its Brazilian subcompact, the Pointer.
While total industry imports were up almost 56 percent in October, exports of autos from Mexican factories fell 12 percent. Truck exports dropped nearly 30 percent.