GM opens Colombia’s first auto plant

General Motors (GM) officially opened Colombia’s first automobile manufacturing plant on Wednesday July 10.

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Owned by GM’s Colombian subsidiary, GM Colmotores, Zoficol will be able to stamp 11 body parts for Chevrolet car models that are already assembled and sold in Colombia, as well as manufacturing the new SailCo model, which has been developed exclusively for the the local market.

The plant marks the Latin American nation’s change from “an assembler to a car manufacturer”, Colombia’s trade and industry minister Sergio Díaz-Granados said at the commissioning ceremony in Bogotá.

Stamping and creasing, two “new industrial processes not developed so far in the country”, will be part of Zoficol’s activities, GM said in an official statement.

Up to 60,000 vehicles will be manufactured each year at the plant, in which GM will have invested $200 million by 2015.

“Thanks to this project by GM Colmotores, Colombia is [now] the third country in South America to manufacture body parts, after Brazil and Argentina,” GM said.

Despite the historical landmark for Colombia and the replacement of imported body parts, Zoficol will not use Colombian steel.

“The steel that is used in the body panels of a vehicle has a high or deep-drawing capacity,” GM said. “Such steel is not yet produced in Colombia, so Zoficol will have to import it from Japan, China, the USA, South Korea and Brazil,” the company said.

Flat steel products will be imported in coils, which will be cut into steel blanks before being stamped at Zoficol’s facility, GM added.

New car production will be initially destined to the Colombian market, with GM later “beginning plans to look for export markets”.

Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, who also attended the launch ceremony, said that “preferential tariff rates” will be granted to “the intermediate goods and raw materials destined for the manufacture of auto parts and vehicle assembly”.

There are eight car assemblers in Colombia – including GM Colmotores – with a total assembly capacity of more than 320,000 units per year.