The new facility will offer the company a low-cost production base from which the OEM can operate in Mexico, already one of the world's fastest growing markets for developing automotive production.
The new Mazda facility will bring stability for the shipping of cars to Europe, the US and Latin America, amidst the current precarious position of the yen. Original plans for the Salamanca plant targeted a 140,000-capacity factory, a large portion of which would be dedicated to assembly of Mazda2 and Mazda3. The remaining space was to be used to construct a small car for Toyota, based on the Mazda2 model. However, capacity for an additional 90,000 units was acquired, which Mazda aims to have ready by March 2016.
Output began in January of this year and is expected to reach a production rate of 140,000 units a year come April. It is hoped that this will grow as the carmaker releases its new Mazda2 and the next generation Toyota Yaris.
The increased output, in addition to production in China, Russia and Thailand, brings the OEM closer to its target of building half of its vehicles outside Japan by March 2016. Two years ago, the figure was 30%.
The Mazda plant has emerged as the latest in a series of projects across international supply chains to expand and boost production and exports from Mexico. Nissan has recently opened a new plant in Mexico, as has Honda, with premium OEM Audi also building a plant. Recent bouts of investment from a variety of suppliers and OEMs has led to a target production rate of 1.5m additional vehicles by the end of 2016.
The growth in production has led to a flurry in automotive logistics investment in Mexico. The expected rise in vehicle exports to the US, for example, has prompted huge investment in rail wagons and track capacity. Shipping lines have also been adding further calls between Mexican and US ports.
In October of last year, finished vehicle logistics provider SSA Mexico announced the start of car handling operations at the port of Lázaro Cárdenas, after winning a concession there. Gefco was also quoted last year as suggesting that as much as 95% of its business in Mexico over the coming years will be automotive, following the opening of its Mexican subsidiary in Mexico City in March 2013, with the company negotiating a project to incorporate a pre-existing logistics platform in nearby Toluca, near Mexico City.
Vehicles built at the new Mazda plant, which includes the redesigned Mazda3 compact car, will be cheaper to produce and, it is hoped, more profitable to sell. The plant will also operate a product-sharing deal with Toyota, to create a buffer against lower than expected demand. The plant is the first foray back into North America for the carmaker, following the move of production of the Mazda6 back to Japan last year from its AutoAlliance International joint venture plant with Ford in Michigan.