Few ‘before-and-after’ photo montages are more striking than comparisons of Detroit in the 1950s and today. What was formerly one of America’s most vibrant cities is now a wasteland of rotting factory buildings and empty neighborhoods. Nearby Canadian towns aren’t faring much better. In June, CBC reported that, for the first time, Mexican automobile production has surpassed Canada’s – a trend that will probably never be reversed. Even Magna, the giant Canadian automotive parts manufacturer, now employs nearly 20 percent of its 130,000 employees ‘south of the border’.
Another stark contrast lies between Detroit and the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, where Freightliner, Chrysler and other iconic American brands are now expanding. Recently Kia Motors broke ground on a new factory there, in what will be the largest construction project in the already-booming region. The new plant will produce as many as 300,000 cars per year. Industry insiders point out that the rush is not just due to lower employee costs in Mexico (though they are one-fifth of Canadian wages, which surely can’t be overlooked). Many companies are also reporting increased productivity levels as they find Mexican workers to be both motivated and highly trainable.