Mexico’s auto industry restart builds, but Ford, VW, Audi still waiting

The General Motors Assembly Plant in Ramos Arizpe, state of Coahuila, Mexico. / Reuters

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s auto industry reopening picked up pace on Tuesday, with Fiat Chrysler and BMW joining peers in gradually dusting off operations even as the wait for approvals slowed the return of Ford and other companies.

In mid-May, officials said the industry could exit a mandatory coronavirus lockdown before June 1 if safety measures were approved.

However, some Mexican governors have urged caution as new coronavirus infections and deaths ticked higher, in a sign of what is expected to be a bumpy return as complex North American supply chains are linked back together.

Fiat Chrysler on Tuesday began reopening two facilities in the central Mexican city of Toluca after a gradual restart of its operations in the northern city of Saltillo a day earlier, said a company spokesman.

“We are opening up with only 40% of personnel at each plant. It’s an orderly and secure reopening, following all the protocols the Health Secretary has given us,” he said.

The announcement means two of Detroit’s Big Three automakers have begun restarting Mexican operations. The third, Ford, said on Tuesday it was working closely with the government to comply with health protocols.

“We’re hoping we can get its approval to operate,” the company said in a statement.

BMW said it would restart operations at its plant in the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi on May 27.

General Motors began opening production lines at its Mexican plants in Ramos Arizpe in the northern state of Coahuila and in the central city of Silao on Thursday.

Japanese automakers Toyota, Nissan and Honda are also restarting in Mexico.

German carmakers Volkswagen and Audi are still awaiting authorization for their plants in Puebla state, whose government said on Friday conditions “do not exist” yet for a restart.