The Mexican automotive market, which set sales and production records last year, appears unwilling to rest on its laurels.
A total of 78,065 light vehicles were sold in January, an increase of 23.8 percent from January 2000 levels. That continues a pace set last year, when sales increased 27.9 percent to a record 853,599.
Among the biggest companies, DaimlerChrysler had the biggest percentage gain. Its January sales were up 45.3 percent. Market leader General Motors gained 31.0 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum, Volkswagen rose 17.0 percent, Ford gained 13.6 percent, and Nissan was up 12.4 percent.
Fighting for No. 4
DaimlerChrysler's big increase pushed it past Ford in sales for the month. Last year, No. 4 Ford outsold DaimlerChrysler by 30,827 vehicles.
The two companies have long battled for the No. 4 spot.
In the early 1990s, the former Chrysler Corp. outsold Ford by small margins in Mexico. Ford passed Chrysler in 1995, held the No. 2 rank in 1996 and 1997, and has been No. 4 and ahead of Chrysler since then. The luxury vehicles added by each automaker - DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz units and Ford's Volvo and Jaguar brands - bring roughly the same number of sales to each automaker.
But Ford can count on a big sales boost soon. In January, Ford's plant in Cuautitlan began producing the Ikon, a small car that finally will give the company an offering at the heart of the Mexican market.
Renault makes the Scenic
January also marked Renault's entry into the Mexican market. The French automaker is producing the Renault Scenic at Nissan's Cuernavaca plant and tallied 45 sales for the month.
Mexico's production gains in January matched the sales pace. Output increased 23.5 percent for the month. In all, 158,130 vehicles were built to feed the growing demand for exports and the Mexican market itself.
How high has the Mexican market climbed in a few years? Consider the 78,065 vehicles sold in January. In early 1995, as the Mexican economy was collapsing, it took Mexican automakers five months to top that sales level.