The recent shocking winter storms that struck the U.S., seemingly caught Texas off guard as it experienced a major meltdown of its electrical infrastructure.
Millions of Texans were left without electricity and heat in the worst part of the storm and eventually without water.
However, the aftermath of the winter storm also extended into Mexico, which forced some automotive plants to stop production temporarily because of problems with the gas supply, much of which Mexico imports from Texas.
Gas supply issues hampered Mexico’s auto plants
To cope with the crisis, Texas prioritized the supply of its gas to its internal needs, reducing output to its external clients. Because gas is essential to electricity generation in Mexico, soon a massive blackout hit most of northern Mexico, affecting millions of households as well as its industry.
Although repair crews restored the electrical supply in short order, they established rolling blackouts to prevent further failures of the power grid as crews worked to restore utilities.
As a result, according to José Zozaya, president of the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (AMIA), most of the automotive assembly plants from Mexico were affected.
At least five plants in Mexico experienced production stoppages because of the problems with gas and electricity supply in Texas. VW, Mazda and General Motors plants, among others were affected.
Mauricio Kuri, spokesperson for VW de Mexico, said by the middle of last week the gas supply shortage became critical. Production of the Jetta was suspended Feb. 18-19, while production of the Golf and Taos SUV was stopped Feb. 19.
Other storm-related closures included:
- Kia’s plant in northern Mexico shut down Feb. 18-19, according to spokesperson Victor Aleman;
- Honda suspended operations at its Celaya plant Feb. 17, but is back to normal, per spokesperson Fernando Maqueo;
- GM’s Silao manufacturing complex shuttered Feb. 16-19, said spokesperson Teresa Cid. Production resumed on the 19th.
- Toyota’s Guanajuato plant was down Feb. 17-19, resuming full operations by Feb. 22, said spokesperson Marisol Blanco.
Additionally, the Japanese automaker’s Baja California plant stopped production on one of its two shifts Feb. 19 and a “technical shutdown” Feb. 22–23. Ford was affected as well, but its Chihuahua engine plant and Hermosillo assembly plant were operating normally by Feb. 18 and 19, respectively, according to spokesperson Julieta Melendez.
Gas supply improving
By last weekend, the supply of gas to Mexico had increased. While some manufacturers resumed production by Monday, others remained cautious. By now most of the plants are back to normal.
Even though still there are no official reports, the supply chain to the automotive assembly plants was affected as well.
Zozaya noted that “plants were not operating at 100% capacity, so in contingencies a margin does exist, and daily production can be increased to reduce the impact of unforeseen circumstances like this. That is what I think will happen and by the end of the month we will be able to see the impact of this situation.”
The lost days of production further complicates the situation of the Mexican automotive industry due to the pandemic, which by the end of 2020 suffered a drop of 22% on exports compared to 2019.