TBY talks to Carlos Mastretta, General Director of Mastretta, on the challenges and benefits of developing a sports car in Mexico.

What is the philosophy behind the design of the Mastretta?

We realized that the global automotive market has many niches, and we saw a niche market for high-quality sports cars manufactured with excellent performance standards, but in low volumes. This industry is already present in Europe and the US. At our company, we combine the technology and the financial strength necessary to develop our own version of this niche car. We started developing the project in 2005, and began production and sales in 2011. Our company has been in the market for 25 years, and our core business is industrial design. Today, we have a new division of the company, which is the manufacturing wing for the Mastretta MXT.

What were the main challenges in the development of the Mastretta MXT?

Designing and building the car was not an issue, but the automotive industry is one of the most competitive industries in the world. With many great and excellent manufacturers in the sports car niche, to compete successfully in the business is a huge technological challenge. Another challenge was to make the transition from operating in the services industry to become a manufacturer by attracting financial support. It was also challenging to modify the structure of the organization of the company to win over investors. A third big challenge was to build a manufacturing facility from the ground up and be able to begin producing the car.

How many cars are you planning to produce over 2012?

We will produce 120 cars. Our production is low volume and our cars are very customized. It is important to mention that in Europe there is special legislation for manufacturers like Mastretta, and if you manufacture less than 1,000 vehicles per year it is more affordable and easier to be successful.

Which countries in Europe have expressed the most interest in the model?

There are sports car fans throughout Europe, but countries such as the UK, Italy, France, Spain, and Germany are our main markets. We have already secured two distributors that are representing and working for us in Europe, and we look forward to opening more offices in the future.

What will be the impact of deliveries to US customers in mid-2012?

The US is a huge market for sports cars. We expect to open up another window of opportunity, and the company will be able to grow faster.

“Car sales depend on customers' emotions to a large degree. People buy the cars that they fall in love with."

What are Mastretta's competitive advantages?

The main competitive advantage is the unique design of the car. Fortunately, it has been very well received, and car sales depend on customers' emotions to a large degree. People buy the cars that they fall in love with. A second competitive advantage is the car's high performance; the Mastretta is fun to drive. Thirdly, we manufacture the car at a very competitive cost, which allows us to offer the car to the market at a very competitive price.

With future legislation on CO2 emissions getting stricter, will you consider manufacturing hybrid or fully electric cars?

In the future, yes. Hybrid or electric cars are light and weigh less than 1,000 kg. Our ideal is to manufacture electric cars. We are already working with an official electric car company in South Korea, because we want to produce an electric or even a hybrid version of the car in two years.

What trends can you identify in Mexico's automotive industry?

Mexico is highly competitive in terms of skilled people in the workforce, and the country has recently entered the spotlight as a car producer, ranking seventh or eighth in the world. Many large manufacturers are not coming to Mexico to exclusively assemble cars. Instead, they are beginning to develop and design the models here. This shift will allow Mexico to develop a more sophisticated car industry in the future. Currently, there are more engineering students in Mexico than in the US, although the population is three times larger there.

What is your outlook for the automotive sector in 2012 and the medium term?

In the coming years, we will see high growth in Mexico's industry, sourced from the largest manufacturers in the world. Companies will be manufacturing more cars and conducting more and more R&D in Mexico, developing technology and innovations. I see Mastretta as a business that can increase production to 500-600 cars per year, with more models to offer to the market. Furthermore, we see the company as capable of offering more sophisticated models and competing with the most advanced cars manufactured around the world.

How do you feel the international market will receive a car designed and built in Mexico?

To convince the market that this product is high quality and high performance is the main challenge. This is to be expected; we are a relatively new company that still needs to build credibility within its niche. However, we are committed to producing a good product that the international market will recognize.

© The Business Year - August 2012