A Thirst for Sustainable, Intelligent MobilitySat, 09/01/2018 - 11:32
Green vehicles remain a meager percentage of Mexico’s vehicle park. According to data from AMIA, 10,512 electric and hybrid cars were sold in the country in 2017, with most of those in Mexico City. Although this constitutes a substantial increase in sales of 27.3 percent compared to the 8,260 units sold in 2016, sales of green vehicles accounted for just 0.7 percent of the 1.53 million vehicles sold in 2017.
This low percentage, however, also represents an opportunity for new players like Zacua, a 100-percent Mexican OEM, to step in and improve the available offering. “Zacua would be a new brand in a highly competitive market, a Mexican brand, and it would focus on electric vehicles. Our proposal was one paradigm shift after another,” says Jorge Martínez, Director General of Zacua, which assembles electric vehicles at its plant in Puebla.
However, electrification does not only impact automakers. Being Mexico the fifth-largest manufacturer of auto parts, Óscar Albin, Executive President of INA, says the rise of green vehicles could also play to the country's strengths. “An electric, self-driving vehicle will require fewer components than today’s vehicles and demand for parts such as electric harnesses will increase,” he says. “This increased demand is good news for Mexico as the country is a global leader in the production of electric harnesses for automotive applications.”
Eduardo Solís, Executive President of AMIA, adds that Mexico is ready to participate in the production of technology for electrified units including critical electric components like batteries. “Companies must learn to adapt to the changes introduced by new technologies, so axle and other transmission component manufacturers will have to find ways to participate in a new industry,” he says.
PREPARING FOR CHANGE
The dawn of the electric car era also means the dusk of the internal combustion engine and while there is a long road ahead before electrified vehicles become the norm, some companies are already preparing for the change. “Volvo Cars will become the second OEM to deal only in hybrid and electric units after Tesla,” says Torben Eckardt, Former Managing Director of Volvo Car México. Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai are among the companies that have also increased the number of electrified vehicle options in their catalogues. According to AMIA data, Toyota’s Prius was Mexico’s top seller in the luxury segment with 7,193 units sold in 2017 and it accounted for 70 percent of all hybrids sold in Mexico in that year. Hyundai has also entered the green vehicles market through its hybrid Ioniq. “Our bet is on hybrid units and even fuel-cell powertrains as the cleanest alternatives,” says Michel Kaim, Managing Director of Hyundai Motor de México.
Mexico’s auto parts segment has also been impacted by the electrification trend and companies that make critical parts for internal combustion engines are also getting on the bandwagon. Belgian exhaust-system manufacturer BOSAL Group, for example, is developing new technologies and introducing new products to its catalogue according to Luis Palomé, Managing Director of Bosal México. “In Mexico, we already produce a heat exchanger for hybrid vehicles,” he says. “We look forward to producing more components for electrified vehicles like this in Mexico.”
Beyond electrification, self-driving technology is being developed at design and engineering centers in Mexico. Solís points out that self-driving technology offers an opportunity for Mexico to increase its participation in the industry. “Control units, radar and lidar sensors are imported from Asia, which is an area of opportunity to fill both in Mexico and North America.”
According to Jorge Vázquez, R&D Center Director at Continental Automotive, the company’s center in Queretaro is focused on creating accident-prevention systems that monitor vehicles’ surroundings and minimize the consequences of an imminent accident. “These systems work through artificial intelligence that will eventually be used in self-driving platforms,” he underlines. The car of the future may still be a few decades away from conquering the roads and it will take a long time before green, self-driving vehicles gain a noteworthy share of Mexico’s vehicle park. However, the first steps have been taken in terms of sales, production and design toward a new automotive horizon.