Sales in Mexico jumped sharply in February, giving a strong push to a market on track for a record year.
A total of 64,242 vehicles were sold. That was 52 percent above the year-ago level.
Most of the gain came from imported vehicles. Sales of imports more than doubled the February 1999 figure and accounted for nearly half of total volume.
True, it's early. But the signs so far - sales are up 43.2 percent through February - show the industry heading for a record. Last year marked the fourth straight year of rising sales. The total of 665,783 sales fell just shy of the record for Mexico.
Every vehicle maker enjoyed double-digit increases in sales last month. Among the five biggest companies, Volkswagen posted the biggest gain. It was up 80.9 percent, thanks in large part to the Jetta, and the old Beetle. VW's car imports also rose sharply.
Ford also had a big gain - up 75 percent. Most of its increase came from imported cars. Its new Volvo operations have begun to make a small mark. Last month, 95 were sold.
The sales race in Mexico shows signs of tightening up. During the first two months of 1999, General Motors had built a 10,167-sale lead over its nearest rival, VW. This year, the gap between GM and Nissan, now No. 2, is just 3,932. No. 3 VW trails Nissan by just 961 units.
GM's sales rose 26.8 percent in February. Its gain was outpaced by all of its major rivals.
Production continues to increase in Mexico, but not as sharply as sales. Total output rose 19.9 percent in February. So far this year, Mexican factories have built 267,938 vehicles.
Output for the Mexican market is rising at a faster rate than production for export.
Still, Mexican factories build three vehicles for export for every one produced for the home market.