June 5, 2020 / 4:02 PM / 2 months ago

Brazil overtakes Mexico in auto production in pandemic

SAO PAULO/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Brazil produced more cars than Mexico in May, reversing normal patterns as Latin America’s top carmaking countries slowly restarted auto factories in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

In normal times, both countries produce a total of half a million cars a month. In May, Brazil rolled out 43,100 units and Mexico 22,119 units, down 84% and 93% respectively from a year ago. Still, the numbers were up significantly from April when their auto plants were all but paralyzed by the pandemic.

Mexico’s export-focused auto industry has been slowly reopening under pressure from top trade partner the United States.

In Brazil, production is focused on domestic consumers and automakers have been free for the most part to decide on their own when to restart production.

Brazil’s automakers association on Friday projected auto sales will end 2020 40% lower than a year ago, at 1.675 million units, its first official forecast of the impact of the crisis.

Brazil’s auto industry had hoped 2020 would be a marquee year with output of more than 3 million for the first time in years. But the coronavirus crisis squelched those hopes, along with much of the global economy.

Exports fell 91% from a year ago in Brazil, and plunged 95% in Mexico.

Reporting by Alberto Alerigi Jr and Marcelo Rochabrun in Sao Paulo and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City; Editing by David Gregorio and Richard Chang

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