Mexico, with 18.9 per cent of production, has overtaken Canada, formerly a powerhouse in the industry.
Canadian light vehicle production climbed slightly last year to 2.382 million units, according to auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers.
But falling investment by the automakers in Canada means it is losing its share of production to both the U.S. and Mexico.
The big winner is Mexico, which saw its light vehicle production climb to 3.2 million vehicles in 2014.
Auto production in Mexico grew 6.8 per cent on the year in January 2015, according to the Mexican Auto Industry Association, with 266,424 cars and light trucks manufactured.
Exports hit a record level of 204,907 vehicles, spurred by strong demand from Canada and the U.S., AMIA said.
Big investments in Mexico
Automakers have made big investments in Mexico, where wages are in the $8 an hour range, compared with close to $40 in Canada.
Mazda has opened a plant in Salamanca for Mazda3 and Mazda2, and Honda is now making the Fit in Celaya – both invested about $800 million in the plants.
Volkswagen, Chrysler, Audi, BMW, GM and Ford all have plans for further investment in Mexico, which has already overtaken Canada as a production centre.
As well as enjoying free trade under NAFTA, Mexico is close to markets in the U.S. Southwest and has easy shipping from its ports without the bother of snow.
The outlook for Canadian auto production is “clouded,” DesRosiers said, despite a falling dollar which will make production cheaper.
Among the uncertainties is whether GM will commit to further production in its Oshawa plant after 2016, and whether any of the big three automakers will expand production.
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