MEXICO CITY - Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. are coming on strong in Mexico, where auto sales are on a roll.
Toyota brand sales in February nearly doubled from February 2005. Combined Honda and Acura sales rose 40.5 percent. The entire market in Mexico fell 0.4 percent in February to 89,079.
As the Japanese win sales, one of the losers so far is Volkswagen AG, which sells the Audi, Seat and Volkswagen brands in Mexico. Sales for those brands fell 16.8 percent in February compared with February 2005.
But the Japanese have a long way to go to catch Volkswagen, the No. 2 automaker in Mexico behind Nissan Motor Co. In 2005, Volkswagen sold 174,082 vehicles, good for 15.4 percent of the market. Honda Motor had 3.5 percent last year; Toyota Motor had 3.1 percent.
Sales in Mexico reached a record 1,131,768 last year, up from 1,095,742 in 2004.
New small cars are eating into VW's sales.
"Competition is getting tougher," says Anibal Habeica, an analyst at Scotiabank here. "You have a lot of brands right now that weren't in the market three or four years ago."
For instance, Mazda starting selling vehicles in Mexico in October. It sells the Mazda3 small car, Mazda5 small minivan and Mazda6 sedan. The Miata will go on sale this summer, Mazda says.
Also, Renault returned to Mexico three years ago after an absence of more than 10 years.
Sales increases are likely for all automakers, thanks to a strong economy. Credit is more widely available than at any other time since the 1994 peso devaluation, with banks rolling out credit cards and fixed-rate loans.
Those factors all play into Toyota's Mexico strategy. In 2006 it plans to introduce the Yaris sedan and to sell more than 50,000 Toyota vehicles, compared with 35,318 in 2005.
Meanwhile, General Motors (Cadillac, Chevrolet, Hummer, Pontiac, Saab) posted a modest gain, 1.2 percent, in February. Ford Motor sales, including Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, dropped 2.2 percent.
DaimlerChrysler sales, including Mercedes-Benz and Smart, fell 4.6 percent.
Production in Mexico in February rose a hefty 25.5 percent. Ford's production of the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr in Hermosillo accounted for much of the increase.