GM's higher Mexican output at a time when it's eliminating jobs in the U.S. has angered President Donald Trump and other politicians as well as union officials set to negotiate a new contract with the automaker this fall.
"We want those cars here," Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and former GM lobbyist, said in a statement to Automotive News. "That's why we have to support a public policy environment that encourages production in the U.S."
Overall production in Mexico fell by 1 percent in 2018. That's the first time Mexico production has declined since automakers began opening a flurry of plants south of the U.S. border to take advantage of lower costs from nonunion labor and favorable trade agreements with overseas markets.
But production in Mexico is expected to remain stable in the coming years, particularly now that the U.S., Canada and Mexico have agreed in principle to a renegotiated free-trade agreement, said Eric Anderson, a senior analyst with IHS Markit.
Total North American production declined for a second consecutive year. Production was down an estimated 2.6 percent overall, including an estimated 2 percent in the U.S. and an estimated 8.8 percent in Canada.
Just three automakers built more vehicles in the U.S. in 2018: Tesla, up 151 percent; Volkswagen Group, up an estimated 22 percent; and Honda Motor Co., up 2.7 percent. Ford remained the largest U.S. producer, building nearly 2.4 million vehicles domestically vs. about 2.1 million for GM.
In Mexico, Toyota Motor Corp. built 49 percent more Tacoma pickups in Tijuana, and Hyundai-Kia made 33 percent more small cars in Nuevo Leon. Besides those two and GM, the only other automaker to raise output in Mexico was Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — by 369 vehicles. Honda and Ford joined Nissan with double-digit cutbacks.