Mexico’s president says Musk will build Tesla EV plant in northern Mexico

Workers assemble cars at a factory.
Workers assemble cars on the line at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif., in 2015. A plant in Mexico would be the company’s first south of the U.S. border.
(David Butow / For The Times)

Tesla will build a new plant in Monterrey, Mexico, the nation’s president announced, ending weeks of speculation over where the maker of electric cars would choose to operate in the country.

The decision, which President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the company will detail Wednesday, would help Mexico build on the millions of combustion-engine vehicles the country already supplies to the U.S. every year. American and European manufacturers have thus far destined most of their EV factories for the U.S. market in American states, though BMW and General Motors have announced new investments in Mexico in recent months that will ramp up EV exports to the U.S.

The arrival of Tesla in Mexico is also a feather in the cap for López Obrador, though he didn’t get his wish for the factory to be located in an economically deprived state in the south of the country. The president said he wrung environmental commitments from Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk on a phone call Monday, including using recycled water throughout the manufacturing process — a pledge López Obrador sought for a region where water has become scarce.

“He was very responsive, understanding our concerns and accepting our proposals,” López Obrador said. “I want to thank Mr. Elon Musk for being very respectful, attentive and understanding of the importance of addressing the problem of water scarcity.”


Tesla will hold an investor day Wednesday, and the company is likely to detail the announcement then, López Obrador said. Additional commitments will also be announced next week, he said. Nuevo Leon Gov. Samuel Garcia cheered the decision in a tweet.

López Obrador had said as recently as last week that Tesla wouldn’t receive permits if there wasn’t enough water in the area of the factory site. Last June, authorities were forced to cut water access in Nuevo Leon, where Monterrey is located, to a maximum of seven hours. The Mexican government even asked industries and farmers in Monterrey to offer part of their water to the population amid weeks of acute shortage while López Obrador asked businesses in the area to cut water usage.

Tesla had run up against concerns about water scarcity while planning a factory in Berlin, one of the two car factories the company opened last year. Although Musk laughed off a question about the issue in August 2021, it contributed to delays that kept the plant from starting production until seven months later.

López Obrador didn’t specify what Tesla would build at the plant, though his comments about water in the manufacturing cycle implied that vehicle assembly and painting would take place there. A new plant in Mexico would come on top of four existing factories — in California, Texas, China and Germany — that Tesla has said have the capacity to make more than 1.9 million vehicles a year.

In addition, the company has started pilot production of its semi truck in Nevada at the battery factory it’s expanding as part of a $3.6-billion investment announced last month. Indonesian leaders including President Joko Widodo also have said they’re in talks with Tesla about the carmaker constructing a factory in the Southeast Asian nation, which is home to key battery metals.

Tesla, which moved its corporate headquarters to Texas from California in 2021, is opening an engineering base in Palo Alto.

The factory would be Tesla’s first south of the U.S. border. López Obrador said that Mexico would be unable to provide subsidies for batteries or semiconductors comparable to the incentives being offered in the U.S. The uncertainty over the location in Mexico touched off a marketing battle between different states, whose leaders sought to promote their appeal for businesses.

The electric vehicle industry has grown in Mexico mainly as foreign demand for the vehicles continues, with BMW announcing a new investment of $866 million in the state of San Luis Potosi. Other automakers, such as General Motors, have also announced plans to expand EV production in the country.

Stellantis, which owns the Jeep and Ram brands, also is considering a plant in Mexico for EV production, Bloomberg has reported. Ford Motor has been building the Mustang Mach-E at its Cuautitlán, Mexico, plant for more than a year.

Companies have been locating their businesses in Mexico as a means to overcome the supply hurdles that emerged in the pandemic while maintaining access to the North American market. Mexico’s industrial park occupancy hit a record high last year, and banks expect this trend to boost the economy in 2023. However, López Obrador’s reform of the energy sector to give the state utility priority over private electricity providers has made some companies squeamish and has limited investment. López Obrador has also ruffled feathers in the business world by intervening in big business decisions, including the sale of Citigroup’s local unit.

Bloomberg writer Craig Trudell contributed to this report.

Hyundai’s and Kia’s popular new EVs are turning heads and sales were skyrocketing — until the Inflation Reduction Act took their customer rebates away.