SÃO PAULO General Motors Co. officially opened Colombias first automobile manufacturing plant July 10.
The plant, owned by Colombian unit GM Colmotores and located in the countrys Zoficol industrial zone, will be able to stamp 11 body parts for Chevrolet car models already assembled and sold in Colombia. It also will make the new SailCo model, which has been developed exclusively for the local market.
The plant marks the Latin American nations change from "an assembler to a car manufacturer," Colombian 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 the plants activities, GM said.
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," the automaker said.
Despite the historical landmark for Colombia and the replacement of imported body parts, the Zoficol plant wont use Colombian steel.
"The steel that is used in the body panels of a vehicle has a high or deep-drawing capacity," Detroit-based 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."
Flat steel products will be imported in coils and cut into steel blanks before being stamped.
New car production will initially go to the Colombian market, with GM later "beginning plans to look for export markets," it added.
"Preferential tariff rates" will be granted to "the intermediate goods and raw materials destined for the manufacture of auto parts and vehicle assembly," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said at the ceremony, said.
There are eight automakers in Colombia, including GM Colmotores, with a total assembly capacity of more than 320,000 units per year.
A version of this article was first published in AMM sister publication Steel First.