Tier 1 companies in Mexico produced parts valued at $76.8 billion in 2013, but imports of the Tier 2-produced components they use totaled $38.8 billion, 7 percent more than the $36.4 billion of 2012, according to INA.
“It's a question of reducing this $38 billion total to $25 billion by 2019,” Albin said. “That's our goal.”
Among the plastics-related items imported in 2013 were seats and seat parts ($1.22 billion), harnesses ($904 million) and steering column parts ($554 million), INA reported.
Developing plastic mold-making activities in Mexico is one of the automotive sector's priorities, according to Albin. INA has sent representatives to tool and mold making companies in Canada, Spain, Portugal and South Korea “to tell them we need them” and inviting them to invest in Mexico, he added.
Mold making in Mexico has lagged behind other manufacturing processes, largely because of a lack of backing from successive governments, reluctant to support a process that requires expertise but generates few jobs, observers believe.
Thomas Karig, vice president of corporate relations and strategy at Volkswagen AG's assembly complex in Puebla, Mexico, referred to it cryptically as “a work in progress” when asked about the development of mold makers in the country this summer.
Some INA members believe the situation will change within a few years.
“Once the first big tool maker comes in, others will follow,” said Mauricio Hernández Brandi, president of INA's light original equipment committee, last year. Most tools used in Mexico's automotive industry come from Canada, Europe or Asia.
Among toolmakers clearly interested in Mexico is Portugal's Exportools ACE, of Samil, São Roque. It has had a sales representative office in the Mexican market for 18 months.
“We have three clients in Mexico, two of them Tier 2 automotive industry suppliers and one of them a Tier 1 supplier,” António Almeida, a member of Exportools' business development staff, told Plastics News.
Exportools manufactures 300 molds of up to 60 tons in weight per year, 90 percent of which are for the automotive industry, Almeida said. Asked whether the company plans to start manufacturing in Mexico, he replied that “maybe in three or four years…”
Exportools has three manufacturing plants in Portugal and one in Brazil. It generates sales of 23 million euros ($31.6 million) annually.
“There are huge opportunities (in Mexico) for Tier 2 and 3 suppliers, including Polish companies,” Eduardo Solis, president of Asociación Mexicana de la Industria Automotriz AC, told attendees at a Mexico City conference in mid-July organized to encourage Polish investment in the Mexican auto industry and vice versa.
Four hundred and fifty of the world's 500 biggest Tier 1 suppliers have manufacturing operations in Mexico, said Solis.
Foreign companies are investing in Mexico first and foremost because of the country's geographic location, he said. But they also take into consideration, the free trade agreements Mexico has signed with 45 countries, a “robust” supply chain, a “young and qualified” work force and the country's economic stability.
Sales by the national supply sector are predicted to reach $81.5 billion this year, an increase of 8.6 percent over 2013, said INA's Albin, who also forecast that by the end of 2019 auto parts production in the country would be valued at between $90 billion and $95 billion.
According to INA, Mexico is the world's sixth largest producer of auto parts, behind China in first place, Japan, the United States, Germany and South Korea, and the fifth largest exporter.
Mexico is likely to assemble 3.1 million light vehicles in 2014, compared with 2.9 million in 2013, and to manufacture almost 4.6 million in 2019, according to INA.
In the space of a few weeks this summer Daimler AG and Nissan Motor Co. said they would jointly produce luxury vehicles at a new $1.4 billion facility in Aguascalientes, Mexico; BMW AG announced a $1 billion investment in a new assembly plant in San Luis Potosí; and Kia Motors Corp. confirmed it will build a $1.5 billion assembly plant in Monterrey, northern Mexico.
Last September, Audi AG announced a $1.3 billion investment in a new assembly plant in San José Chiapa, Puebla, where it will build the luxury Q5 SUV.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Mazda Motor Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG together already operate a dozen and a half assembly plants in Mexico.
Citing statistics from consultant Kasso & Asociados, Mexico's economy ministry and central bank, INA said that foreign direct investment in the national automotive industry from 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect, through 2013 was $42.8 billion.