Should you find yourself renting a Chevrolet Spark in Acapulco in the near future, beware: it won’t have the same safety features — as in none at all — as the Spark exported to your local dealership. In fact, unless a car or truck screwed together in Mexico is bound for the United States or Europe, only the bare minimum, if any, in safety features will be available to customers in Latin America shopping for base models.
The results? Cars whose sticker prices in Mexico are higher than in the United States in spite of having less safety features than those shipped abroad, for one. For another, higher road fatalities south of the border; over 5,000 drivers and their passengers lost their lives in 2011, a 58 percent increase since 2001. Alas, the Mexican government’s hands are tied when it comes to drafting, passing and enforcing the sort of laws that would bring an end to this particular double standard.
The reason for is said to be cost savings: Automakers doing business in Mexico go so far as to code their production lines in determining which car goes to export and those that remain in Latin America. For the latter, this means a couple of air bags and a few seat belts, and nothing more. This two-tiered approach holds up the bottom line, one that is beneficial to Mexico’s economy to the tune of $30 billion annually.