Driven by surging Mexican factories, North American light-vehicle production in 2014 is headed for the second-highest level on record.
Full-year 2014 output for the United States, Mexico and Canada will total 17.24 million, up 7 percent from 2013, according to estimates from the Automotive News Data Center. That would fall about 53,000 light vehicles below the 2000 peak of 17,297,498.
And next year could set a record. LMC Automotive just raised its 2015 production forecast by 200,000 to 17.4 million light vehicles, saying low fuel prices and robust job growth will stimulate demand.
A weekly production rate averaging 352,000 vehicles over 49 working weeks reflects five straight years of solid sales increases in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. What's more, Mexico's free-trade agreements covering dozens of other countries have made it an attractive base for exports overseas and to South America.
The surge is testing some suppliers. A fall study by consulting firm IRN said 42 percent of parts makers polled would have trouble keeping up with demand amid further vehicle production next year. Some are hesitant to invest, concerned the growth curve may soon flatten.
For perspective, the 2014 estimate is more than double production five years ago during the Great Recession.