MEXICO CITY – Pick-up sales in Mexico have plunged by around 50 percent in the past year due to security concerns, as consumers shy away from a type of truck favored by criminal gangs in carrying out their attacks, the new president of Ford in Mexico, Gabriel Lopez, said.
In a press conference, the executive said the personal-use pickup segment’s share of Mexico’s vehicle market has fallen from around 6.5 percent in mid-2009 to 4.2 percent at present, while sales have plummeted roughly 50 percent in the past year.
“We don’t see (that segment) recovering,” Lopez, an Argentine who became president of the U.S. automaker’s Mexico subsidiary on July 31, said. He added that pickups are the only segment that has “shrunk.”
Market research and information gathered from dealerships showed that sales of this type of vehicle fell due to “insecurity,” the executive said.
Pickups are “in high demand as a vehicle for committing criminal acts, due to their size, their sturdiness (and) because (there’s space for) a gang of let’s say four or five (assailants)” with their assault rifles, he said.
Cartel enforcers often steal these vehicles before carrying out attacks and consumers are concerned that a truck registered in their name could be used by gangsters.
The vehicle also possesses four-wheel traction and can “easily go anywhere, so it would appear to be the ideal vehicle for (committing crimes),” Lopez said.
In most clashes pitting authorities against drug traffickers or organized crime elements, the criminals are riding in luxury SUVs, some of them stolen; until a few months ago, it was common in northern Mexico to see convoys of SUVs carrying rifle-wielding drug-gang enforcers on the streets of some cities.
“There’s no solution. The only solution is for the crime to disappear because the vehicle will continue to be what it is,” Lopez said.
Ford, which has plants in the northern cities of Hermosillo and Chihuahua and in the central city of Cuautitlan, sells the popular Lobo pickup in Mexico.
Lopez said Ford has not had serious problems in Chihuahua state, the area of Mexico hardest hit by drug-related violence, although he added that the company is working “continuously with authorities” to ensure “that material can arrive at its plant (there), can be transported in our trucks ... and cross the border into the United States.”
President Felipe Calderon’s administration has just submitted a bill to Congress to combat money laundering that, among other things, prohibits cash payments of more than 100,000 pesos (some $8,064) for purchases of jewelry, automobiles and watches.
Lopez said in that respect that “there’s concern” at car dealerships located in areas of the country where many payments are made in cash.
However, he said the measure will only have a negative impact initially because consumers will adapt to the new law and the situation will return to normal.
Killings related to organized crime have topped 10,000 this year in Mexico, capital daily Reforma said Thursday, noting that the figure marks a new high since President Felipe Calderon deployed the military against drug cartels when he took office in December 2006.
Two of Mexico’s 31 states account for more than 45 percent of this year’s gangland killings.
Chihuahua, bordering Texas, has seen 2,797 murders, or 27.8 percent of the total.
The western state of Sinaloa – home to extensive fields of marijuana and opium poppies and birthplace of the founders of Mexico’s most powerful cartels – has recorded 1,795 homicides this year, representing 17.8 percent of the total. EFE