Q: How has Von Wobeser y Sierra evolved after almost 30 years and what have been your biggest achievements?
A: The firm was founded in 1986, and from the outset we have been active in the automotive industry. Robert Bosch was our first client, paving the way for a sound business relationship with the automotive industry. Von Wobeser is now one of the leading law firms in the truck, car, and auto parts industries, serving more than 50 parts manufacturers and four major light vehicle OEMs, as well as providing advisory services for others. Our partnership with BMW has spanned more than 20 years, and we have also collaborated with Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo. In terms of the heavy vehicle industry, we represent companies such as Isuzu, MAN Truck & Bus, and Navistar, among others. Even though products and services differ between segments, the industry experiences similar issues, which enables us to use the knowledge we gain solving one problem to resolve another efficiently.
Q: What factors make these clients choose Von Wobeser y Sierra over your competitors?
A: As a fully integrated firm, our clients choose us because of our industry expertise and because we handle all corporate aspects relating to mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Specifically, in terms of the auto industry, we administer import-export, IMMEX and other special foreign trade requisites, as well as each registration that car manufacturers require. We are well-versed in foreign trade, and this is especially beneficial for automotive clients who must work within those legal frameworks. Most of our clients are international, although we do retain some significant Mexican clients, such as Grupo Bocar.
Q: What are the main trends that you have identified in the automotive industry?
A: The automotive industry is dependent on an extensive and complex chain of job creation, and Mexico has been active in taking advantage of its potential, making it by far the largest exporter in Latin America. As such, the automotive industry has been crucial for the industrial development of the country, particularly in terms of training the workforce, increasing competition and generating an influx of foreign investment in the country. The government has effectively created safe mechanisms for opening the borders to imports and exports while still maintaining the integrity of our market. When BMW first established operations in Mexico, the government imposed a mandatory requirement that the company must purchase Mexican raw material and components for manufacture. BMW now purchases US$3 billion worth of Mexican auto parts every year, and a considerable proportion of those volumes are exported for vehicles produced in Germany. Mexican companies have proven their ability to manufacture products with the expected levels of quality.
Q: What is your involvement with shelter companies and how do you help automotive clients settle in the country?
A: Due to process sophistication within our clients’ companies, there is typically a division designed to handle the process internally, and shelter companies are only seldom used during the initial stages. Normally, a shelter company is not necessary, since the companies can easily purchase property or enter into a leasing agreement in order to establish operations in the country, and these real estate acquisitions are dealt with directly by Von Wobeser. Most of our clients are based outside of Mexico City, but 99% of their legal work is conducted within the city, with the exception of litigation, which would be referred to a local lawyer.
Our clients must comply with several environmental requirements, beginning with the plant construction, which requires several authorizations from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) in terms of environmental impact, water usage, and wells drilling. In addition, it is necessary to comply with complex requirements in relation to waste disposal and air emission regulations. The legal framework in terms of environmental policy has been transformed completely in the last 30 years, with important changes implemented by the authorities that have increased sophistication within the industry. SEMARNAT has greatly contributed to a wider focus on environmental issues and, in my opinion, the regulations implemented by the organization have been fair for both the automotive companies and environmental sustainability