APODACA, MEXICO - In this tiny community outside industrial Monterrey, Ford Carplastic SA de CV manages to keep the turnover rate among its 1,100 hourly workers and 221 salaried workers near zero. The reasons, according to human resources director Fernando Barri, are the economic crisis that still grips the country, the Carplastic pay rate and a group of employee programs - intramural sports, free meals, and buses to bring workers to the plant.
In fact, Barri said the workers are highly motivated. One measure of their motivation for which Barri understandably takes pride is the plant's ISO 9000 certification awarded last August.
The Carplastic plant has more than 60 molding machines, one with 4,000 tons of clamping force. Most are in the 1,000- to 2,000-ton range.
The plant's annual sales are $200 million, according to company officials.
Other than its effect on turnover, the economic recession brought about by a government devaluation of the peso in December 1994 has had no impact on Carplastic's operation.
Like much of the automotive industry in Mexico, it depends heavily on exports. More than 80 percent of its products go to Ford plants in the United States.
The company also ships products to Canada, Argentina, and Venezuela.
Carplastic also makes instrument panels for the Ford assembly plant in Hermosillo in northwestern Mexico. Before the panels are installed in Escorts or Mercury Tracers there, they are finished in a small adjacent Carplastic factory in Hermosillo.
Ford, with plastic plants in the United States and Europe, launched Carplastic in Apodaca as a 50-50 joint venture with the Visa Industrial Group of Mexico in June 1982.
At that time, the plant molded cabinets for Hewlett-Packard and Xerox plants in Mexico as well as components for Ford vehicles.
But, according to Barri, profitability was too low to sustain the work on outsiders' products.
So, in 1987, the partners stopped producing for anyone except Ford and, in 1989, Ford bought out Visa's equity, making it a wholly owned subsidiary.
Now Carplastic works at full capacity producing hard and soft dashboards, consoles, truck grilles, housings for rear lights and headlights, and several small plastic parts for Ford vehicles, including Lincoln Town Cars, Sables, Contours, Tauruses, Escorts, and F series trucks.