MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico is undergoing a fevered competition among states to win a potential Tesla facility in jostling reminiscent of what happens among United States (US) cities and states vying to win investments from tech companies.
Mexican governors have gone to loopy extremes, like putting up billboards, creating special car lanes or creating mock-ups of Tesla ads for their states. And there’s no guarantee Tesla will build a full-fledged factory. Nothing is announced, and the frenzy is based mainly on Mexican officials saying Tesla boss Elon Musk will have an upcoming phone call with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The northern industrial state of Nuevo Leon seemed to have an early edge in the race.
It painted the Tesla logo on a lane at the Colombia border crossing into Texas last summer, and erecting billboards in December in the state capital, Monterrey, that read “Welcome Tesla”.
The state governor’s influencer wife, Mariana Rodriguez, was even shown in leaked photos at a get-together with Musk.
However, López Obrador appeared to exclude the semi-desert state from consideration today, arguing he wouldn’t allow the typically high water use of factories to risk prompting shortages there.
That set off a competitive scramble among other Mexican states, like feeding time at a piranha tank. The governors’ offers ranged from crafty proposals to near-comic ones.
“Veracruz is the only state with an excess of gas,” quipped Governor Cuitláhuac García of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, before quickly adding “gas… for industrial use, for industrial use!”
A late-comer to the race, García had to try harder: He noted Veracruz was home to Mexico’s only nuclear power plant. And he claimed Veracruz had 30 per cent of Mexico’s water, though the National Water Commission puts the state’s share at around 11 per cent. Water, it turns out, is thicker than blood.
The governor of the western state of Michoacan wasn’t going to be left out. Governor Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla quickly posted a mocked-up ad for a Tesla car standing next to a huge, car-sized avocado with the slogan “Michoacan – The Best Choice for Tesla”. “We have enough water,” Ramírez Bedolla said in a television interview he did between a round of meetings with auto industry figures and international business representatives.
Michoacan also has an intractable problem of drug cartel violence. But similar violence in neighbouring Guanajuato state hasn’t stopped seven major international automakers from setting up plants in Guanajuato.
Nuevo Leon Governor Samuel García had to think fast to avoid being shut out entirely, and came up with a novel strategy.
García reached out to the western state of Jalisco, whose governor, Enrique Alfaro, belongs to the same small Citizen’s Movement party. Together, the two came up with an “alliance” on Thursday that would allow trucks from Jalisco preferential use of Nuevo Leon’s border crossing, the same one where a “Tesla” lane appeared last year.
Jalisco has an already healthy foreign tech sector, but most importantly, it has more water than Nuevo Leon.
The two appeared intent on playing nice. “We are two states that do not have to compete and cannibalise each other… cannibalisation for investment is a mistake,” Alfaro said.
López Obrador’s focus on water might be more about politics than about droughts, said Gabriela Siller, chief economist at Nuevo Leon-based Banco Base. She said the president appeared to be trying to steer Tesla investment to a state governed by his own Morena party, like Michoacan or Veracruz.