The first Honda Fit rolled off the assembly line Friday at a new $800-million factory near Celaya, Mexico, a symbol of the growing might of the country’s auto industry.
Honda’s U.S. factories spit out hundreds of thousands of Accords and Civics each year. But when the automaker redesigned the Fit for North America, it turned to Mexico for an increasingly skilled workforce and favorable export rules.
Mexico already accounts for about 18% of North American auto production, but that’s expected to jump to 25% by 2020 as automakers pour billion of dollars into factories, said Joe Langley, an analyst at IHS Automotive. The nation has joined Germany, Japan and the U.S as one of the heavyweights of auto production, he said.
U.S. auto factories have also kicked into a higher gear since the recession as auto sales have rebounded. But Mexico’s plants are adding jobs and production even more quickly.
Mexico’s auto industry employment has soared 46% to about 580,000 jobs since 2009, according to the Brookings Institution. U.S. auto employment has gained 16% in the same period. . .