Mexico's Auto Production Down For Third Straight Month

February is typically a weak month for auto production.

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexico's auto sector posted its third-straight monthly drop in production during February after poor weather in the U.S. lowered consumer demand, according to a Thursday report.

Production fell 9.8 percent compared with the same period last year, the Auto Industry Association reported.

Exports declined 8.2 percent, while local sales fell 3.4 percent.

In a news release the association's president, Cesar Flores, contributed the drop in production to seasonal factors both in Mexico and abroad.

Erich Merkle, an industry analyst with the auto consulting company IRN Inc., in Grand Rapids, Mich., attributed the Mexican production decline to the drop in U.S. vehicle sales.

''You have to remember there's a lot of American-branded vehicles that are produced down there that aren't selling real well,'' he said.

Mexico exported 96 percent of its vehicles to the United States and Canada in 2006. The top producer was General Motors Corp., followed by Nissan Motor Co., Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen AG and DaimlerChrysler.

Nissan manufactures the Sentra and Versa, as well as some Mexican market vehicles, at its two Mexican plants.

Adverse weather in January that caused even bigger declines in demand in the U.S. and Canada has become less of a factor, Flores said, and he predicted a rebound.

It is not uncommon for Mexican sales to fall off in February, Flores said.

The auto industry is Mexico's largest single manufacturing sector.

Industrywide, U.S. sales dropped 2.6 percent in 2006 to about 16.5 million from just under 17 million in 2005.