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Ford to invest $1.3 billion in northern Mexico plant

By Tomas Sarmiento

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - U.S. carmaker Ford Motor Co will invest $1.3 billion in its stamping and assembly plant in the northern Mexican city of Hermosillo, creating 1,000 jobs, a top company executive said on Friday.

Ford surpassed General Motors , to become Mexico's No. 1 car exporter last year, exporting nearly 450,000 vehicles, up 17 percent from 2010 levels. Mexico overall exported a record 2.14 million cars in 2011, a 15.3 percent jump from a year earlier.

"This investment allows us to produce the all-new Ford Fusion and the Lincoln MKZ line-ups, helping us to meet growing consumer demand," Mark Fields, who is Ford's president for the Americas, said at an event with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Mexico City.

Calderon said the investment would help Mexico edge up the list of the world's top auto exporters.

"Mexico in January rose to fifth place in global auto exports ... and I think we are about to move into fourth place," he said.

Ford's announcement comes as Mexico has been at loggerheads with regional powerhouse Brazil over the car industry after a surge in Mexican auto exports in 2011 compounded a glut of cheaper imports which are hurting Brazil's manufacturers.

Mexico gave in to Brazilian pressure earlier this month and agreed to slash auto sales to the southern giant, fixing an export quota for the next three years to save a decade-old trade agreement.

Ford's Hermosillo plant, which opened in 1986, already employs around 2,700 staff, according to the company's website.

Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker, said in a statement that the new investment comes on top of $3 billion invested in Mexico over the past decade.

Seven foreign automakers have established their own plants in Mexico, also including Chrysler/Fiat , Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, Nissan Motor Co <7201.T>, Toyota Motor Co <7203.T> and Volkswagen .

(Reporting by Tomas Sarmiento. Editing by Simon Gardner and Richard Chang)

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