Liberalized trade policies may draw Toyota to Mexico by mid-decade. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. is studying the Mexican market in a new, high-priority project.
The election of Vicente Fox as president of Mexico and the country's improving economy have prompted Toyota's interest in the market, a spokesman says.
'The Mexican market is of interest to us. It's the last market in North and South America of that size that we are not in,' says Toyota spokesman Mike Michels.
'The change of administration has galvanized the way people look at Mexico. There is a more stable political environment, and we're seeing some economic growth.'
Mexican policy requires that automakers wanting to sell in Mexico must produce there, or pay a 20 percent tariff on their imports. The policy has had its intended effect - production since 1995 has doubled to about 1.4 million cars and trucks a year.
But the decree ends in early 2004. That clears the way for any vehicle with more than 62.5 percent North American content to be sold in Mexico without penalty. In addition, Mexico and Japan are drafting an investment treaty that would allow Japanese automakers to sell vehicles in Mexico without paying the 20 percent tariff.