Featured photo for Cars in Mexico

Cars in Mexico

Considering the vehicles that have found a home in my garages, one can correctly surmise that I have had a long-time leaning towards European autos. Lately, however, I have developed an appreciation for new Detroit iron flouting Yankee flair, characterized by bold, love-it-or-hate-it lines, macho design cues, and sometimes a bit of nostalgia thrown in for good measure.

Mexico, therefore, was a delectable feast for my eyes.

Its landscape of gasoline-powered four-wheelers is a virtual marriage between the car markets of western Europe and the United States. Most cars are compacts or subcompacts, but a sport utility vehicle can occasionally be heard rumbling down the street. The car I saw most in Mexico was the classic Volkswagen Beetle, but the 90s Nissan Sentra make up most of the taxi fleets (at least in Oaxaca de Juárez).

Many European marques we don’t get in the United States are well represented in Mexico, including VW-owned, Spain-based SEAT and Renault and Peugeot of France. I saw an old Citroën 2CV from the 1960s but nothing newer. The Italians still do not have much of a presence as I did not see a single Fiat, Alfa Romeo or Lancia. Perhaps that will change soon now that Fiat owns a substantial part of Chrysler and is posed to even bring some of their cars to the States.

Of the American cars, there are just a few here and there except for those from Chevy. There were Chevys based on Daewoos and also the popular Tornado, a car-based pickup that could well be the spiritual successor of the old El Camino.

The other models that have made it south of the U.S. border tend to stand out like Lady Gaga with more flamboyant styling than those from Europe or Asia. I was delighted to see a few Ford Mustangs, and there must be some Mexicans with Camaros as well as I saw a large Chevy billboard advertising Transformers‘ four-wheeled star. There are also Chrysler PT Cruisers, Chevy HHRs and Dodge Calibers, which feature far more interesting design cues than the other five-door hatchbacks that are popular in Mexico.

Of course, there are some SUVs as well, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Escape and Honda CRV. They comprise a much smaller percentage of the auto fleet than in the U.S., however, perhaps due to their poorer gas mileage and whale-like size that makes driving through the smaller streets a chore. (Gasoline, by the way, costs about the same in Mexico as in the U.S. at around eight pesos per liter, or about US$2.35/gallon in current exchange rates.)

Of the German cars, Volkswagens are by far the most popular, but I also saw many BMWs, MINIs (British in spirit but manufactured by BMW), and Audis as well.

Interestingly, I didn’t notice a single Hyundai or Kia. However, Hyundai does have a Mexican web page, although the distributor contact information is listed as a Chrysler e-mail address.

In sum, the Mexico auto marketplace offers a cornucopia of interesting vehicles from around the world, even more so than the U.S. market due to the presence of cars from Spain and France. There are also all those old Volkswagen Beetles putzing down the streets!

Another VW Beetle in Oaxaca.
A VW Beetle at a church in Capulalpan de M̩ndez.
A custom Volkswagen Beetle in Oaxaca.
I saw three Ford Mustangs -- one from the 90s, and two from 2008 or so including this white one. I also saw a billboard advertising the new Camaro so Mexico must get that too.
PT Cruiser.
Chevy HHR.
Dodge Caliber.
A Peugeot 206 CC cabriolet.
A MINI Cooper convertible.
A custom Volkswagen sub-compact with "infiel" and "unfaithful" decals.
A Honda City.  I thought it was interesting that these would be sold in Mexico instead of the Honda Civic, which I think is about the same size and is ubiquitous in the U.S.
A red scooter outside the Instituto de Artes Graficas in Oaxaca.
A nice Ibis mountain bike parked at the Z
There are French cars in Mexico, including Peugeots, Renaults and Citroäns.  This is a Peugeot station wagon.
The spiritual successor to the Chevrolet El Camino: the Chevy Tornado.  "Chevy" actually is the official name in Mexico, not just a nickname for Chevrolet like it is in the U.S.
Ojudju, a random guy, and Widhar getting off the autobus de segundo clase in Teotitlan del Valle.
Three-wheeled tuk-tuks are ubiquitous as taxis in small towns.  They are gasoline-powered, often with motorcycle engines.
A pimped-out Beetle in Teotitlan del Valle.
Mexico also gets the Ford Ka -- a car ubiquitous in Europe.
I saw a couple second-generation Audi TTs, including a coupe and this roadster.
The Volkswagen Beetle is probably the most ubiquitous car in Mexico.  At least I saw more of these than any other car in Oaxaca.