MEXICO CITY -- Mexico’s normally robust light-vehicle exports fell 16 percent in April as U.S. consumers leaned heavily toward light trucks that are not a big part of the Mexico product mix.
Exports of cars and light trucks fell to 197,020 vehicles last month from 233,515 in April 2015, the Mexican Automotive Industry Association said today.
In the first four months of the year, auto exports dropped 7.4 percent to 854,118 vehicles, compared with 922,029 in the same period last year.
Auto exports to the U.S. represent about three-quarters of local production, said AMIAPresident Eduardo Solis, meaning that the shift in U.S. tastes is driving the market rather than a lack of capacity in Mexico.
Truck sales are performing well among American consumers because of low gasoline prices. In the U.S., light-truck deliveries have jumped 11 percent this year through April in an overall market that has climbed 3.3 percent. U.S. car demand has skidded 5.5 percent.
The hottest light-truck segments include midsize pickups, minivans, large vans, subcompact crossovers and compact luxury crossovers.
“We are sending the type of vehicle that is losing ground in the U.S.,” Solis said.
Help is coming both on the car front and the truck front. Kia will open a new car assembly plant in Mexico in coming weeks and Audi plans to open a light-truck factory to build SUVs starting in the second half of the year.
Solis said the new factories could add about 100,000 units to Mexico’s light-vehicle production tally for the year, putting it back into record territory by the end of 2016.
Light trucks built in Mexico were among the country’s top April exports last month, including the Ram 2500, Honda HR-V, GMC Sierra and Toyota Tacoma.
The export brands with the highest growth last month included Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Brands with the biggest drops included Ford, Mazda and Volkswagen.
For the first four months of the year, VW exports fell 31 percent from the same period last year to 94,362 cars.
Weighed down by the export numbers, Mexico’s overall auto production last month fell 4.9 percent to 269,604 cars and light trucks, AMIA said. Production in the January-to-April period was off 5 percent to 1.08 million units from 1.13 million in the same period in 2015.
Good news at home
April continued to deliver good news on the home front, however, with domestic sales of new cars growing briskly after last year’s record performance.
Local sales rose 25 percent in April from a year ago to 118,407 vehicles, according to the Mexican Auto Distributors Association. Some of that gain was the favorable shift of the Easter holiday, which fell in March this year and April last year. The April results represent 16 straight month-over-month gains.
Combined sales in the first four months of 2016 rose 16 percent to a record 465,733 vehicles. Nearly all brands posted volume gains, including Volkswagen, which has been struggling in the U.S. following emissions violations.
Guillermo Rosales, co-director of AMDA, said the local auto industry has been working with the government to successfully limit the number of used cars flooding into Mexico from the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Rosales said the industry has no problem with legal imports of U.S. used cars, but opposes imports that have circumvented those rules for a decade, dumping millions of vehicles on the local market.
Too many used cars in the Mexican market depresses prices and makes it tough for used-car owners to sell a car at a decent price at trade-in to buy a new car, he said.
Unlike the truck-crazy U.S., smaller vehicles and cars are faring well in the Mexican market, with subcompacts and compacts at the top of the heap.
Light trucks are also performing well, especially so-called multi-use vehicles that include SUVs and smaller crossovers, according to AMDA.
In 2015, the Mexico auto industry set numerous records. Production rose 5.6 percent from a year earlier to 3.4 million vehicles. Exports grew 4.4 percent to 2.76 million, and local sales jumped 19 percent to 1.35 million cars and light trucks, according to AMIA.