CHICAGO -- Mazda's production in its Salamanca, Mexico, plant could go well beyond the small cars it builds there.
The entire lineup will be up for discussion when the time comes to add vehicles to Salamanca, says Jim O'Sullivan, CEO of Mazda North American Operations.
That could mean any of Mazda's larger or more expensive nameplates, he says.
"We're continuing to look at opportunities for that plant, and asking what else should we consider putting into it," O'Sullivan told Automotive News at the auto show here. "You don't build an assembly plant for one product. It's going to be an ongoing investment."
Like Nissan and Honda, Mazda has invested heavily in Mexico to produce competitive small cars. Its $770 million factory opened last year to supply dealers in North America and selected export markets with the Mazda3 compact. Late last month, the plant moved to a second work shift and launched production of the Mazda2 subcompact for the United States and Europe. That line will also begin supplying Toyota with a version of the subcompact in late 2016.
O'Sullivan said that Mexico's free-trade agreements with countries around the world are the biggest influence on auto industry investment there -- more so than Mexico's lower-cost labor.
"Look at Audi's decision to build its large SUV solely in Mexico for global markets," O'Sullivan says. "They're not doing that for labor costs. They're doing it for trade issues."