It was supposed to be a celebration for Kia's new $3 billion assembly plant in Mexico: glad-handing by local officials, lofty praise for the jobs created and money brought in, ceremonial ribbon-cutting with high-ranking executives in from Korea.
And then Miguel Angel Lozano took the stage.
Lozano is mayor of Pesqueria, a small town about two hours from the southern tip of Texas. Kia's new plant sprawls over about 1,200 acres in Pesqueria, and, to hear Lozano tell it, his town has almost nothing to show for it.
With the state governor, Kia Motors Corp.'s CEO and Hyundai Motor Group's chairman looking on during last week's ceremonial opening, Lozano thanked Kia officials for the investment but voiced concern about whether the economic benefits touted by state and federal politicians would materialize.
Despite the "world-class" facility in his backyard, he said, there was little corresponding investment in infrastructure to support it, and he pleaded with the Mexican federal government and state officials to step up with emergency aid for the town.
"Our municipality doesn't have installations for public safety, or for the municipal council, or for firefighters, or civil protection, or adequate highways, or even a simple traffic light," Lozano said.
The note of discord reflected the reality that Kia's bumpy ride into Mexico isn't over yet and highlighted the pitfalls global automakers and suppliers face as they expand there in search of lower-cost labor and a larger North American production base.
Kia's project, announced in 2014, began to run into trouble in October 2015, when a new governor for Nuevo Leon state took office on a hard-line anti-corruption platform.
Gov. Jaime Rodriguez Calderon -- nicknamed "El Bronco" -- came out swinging against the incentive package that his predecessor, Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz, lavished on Kia to secure the assembly plant. Rodriguez went so far as to file fraud charges against Medina and members of his administration for their involvement in the deal.
Under Rodriguez's watch, the state and Kia went back to the drawing board to work out terms more favorable to Nuevo Leon.
The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding in June, but the agreement has yet to be finalized or disclosed in detail, according to Kia. Details of the revised deal are expected be announced this fall.
In an interview posted online by the Nuevo Leon government, the state's labor secretary said the new agreement would save the state 7 billion pesos (about $370 million) vs. the original one, though it wasn't clear over what time period.
At the ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 7, Rodriguez acknowledged the mayor's concerns directly, promising help for the town.
"We are going to work and help resolve the problems of Pesqueria, and I also know that the Kia company is going to help," he said during a speech of his own.
Production in Pesqueria started this May, when the 2017 Kia Forte sedan and hatchback models started rolling off the line.
By year-end, Kia hopes to build 100,000 vehicles at the site. Plans call for the plant to produce up to 400,000 Kia and Hyundai vehicles annually.
The renegotiated deal has already led to production delays for the 2017 Forte. Planned railroad spurs from the plant to the nearest rail yard roughly 20 miles away have yet to be built, forcing Kia to truck finished vehicles over poor roads that have yet to be widened and improved.
Kia hopes to have those problems largely resolved by the time production of the next-generation Rio starts there at year end. That car is set to make its world debut this month at the Paris auto show.