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Insight: Mexico drives North American auto investment, challenges China

DETROIT (Reuters) – The Mexican auto industry is about to go on a $10 billion factory building spree, illustrating the nation’s rising economic challenge to rivals from the United States to China.

Japanese and German auto manufacturers are spearheading the drive, say parts suppliers and researchers who see more auto factories built south of the border than in the United States between now and the end of the decade.

The United States will consume the vast majority of the new cars, but Mexico’s domestic market has rebounded from a long slump, and in a sign of Mexico’s growing global role, auto exports outside of North America will rise faster than those to the United States.

BMW AG , Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz are expected to announce at least $2 billion of deals in the next year or two, according to supplier and other industry sources. That’s on top of nearly $6 billion in announced plants by Nissan Motor Co <7201.T>, Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, Mazda Motor Corp <7261.T> and Volkswagen AG .

U.S. automakers, all of whom have been building cars in Mexico since before World War II, will spend another $1 billion or more to upgrade Mexican plants. And Nissan and VW also are considering expansions at existing factories that could total $1 billion or more, according to sources familiar with their plans.

Mexico “is quickly turning into the China of the West,” said Joseph Langley, a senior analyst at Michigan-based research firm IHS Automotive, pointing to Mexico’s low wages, a strong supply base and a global web of free-trade agreements.
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