Mexico on the move According to a recent report published by Business Week, Mexico is fast becoming an industrial power. The article states that just five years after NAFTA, free trade with the U.S. and Canada is "turning the country from a mere assembler of cheap, low-quality goods into a reliable exporter of sophisticated products." Since 1993, exports have more than doubled, to $115 billion. And manufactured goods now account for almost 90% of Mexico's foreign sales - up from 77% five years ago. What's more, Mexico's manufacturing segment "pulled the economy along at 4.5% growth in '98. Unfortunately, oil is now only 7% of exports - down from 22% in 1993 - yet the government depends on oil sales for 35% of its budget revenues. Making up for that shortfall could slow growth to 2.5% next year. That could explain why Mexico's bolsa was down 40% in '98 in dollar terms.

On the other hand, the report states, NAFTA trade has helped protect Mexico from "both the plunge in oil prices and the fallout from the global emerging-markets crisis." And, according to the publication, Mexico's industrial surge means North America is gaining back thousands of jobs lost when U.S. and Canadian manufacturers shifted production to lower-cost Asian nations.

New component player In a joint venture, Eagle-Picher and Mannesmann BOGE have begun to manufacture and distribute suspension and powertrain components for the heavy-duty transportation industry in North America. The components will be made first in Brazil, and later also at a plant in Paris, Ill. Once Mannesmann BOGE buys up the remaining Eagle-Picher shares in the joint venture, the company's name will change from Eagle-Picher-BOGE to BOGE North America. Corporate offices are expected to be located in the Detroit area. According to the manufacturer, initial marketing efforts will be directed at the heavy-duty sector, to be followed by product for midrange and medium-duty OEMs and suspension makers. Meanwhile, Eagle-Picher will continue as a "Tier 2" supplier of vibration-control components to such manufacturers as Gabriel, Tenneco, and Bilstein.

Toyota ramps up Tundra Production of the new full-size Tundra pickup truck by Toyota begins this month at the OEM's freshly built assembly plant in Indiana. According to Ward's Automotive International, six trucks will arrive in each of more than 1,200 dealer showrooms by June. The annual output goal is 100,000 units. The Tundra will be the first vehicle built by Toyota in the U.S. without a "backup" plant in Japan. The truck will be sold exclusively in the U.S. and Canada. It will be offered with 3- or 4-door cabs and choice of optional 3.4-liter V6 or 4.7-liter V8 engines imported from Japan. Payload capacity is 2,000 lb. and towing capacity 7,200 lb. While pricing has not yet been set, Toyota claims the Tundra will be competitive with other V8-powered "quad cab" pickups.

Dana Kirkstall steer axles The Kirkstall Specialty (CQ) Axle Div. of Dana Corp. has introduced the new Dana K-Series range of front non-drive steer axles developed for Class 3-8 OEMs worldwide. Dana says the new axles offer longer life, less maintenance, and lighter weight, thanks to a unitized wheel bearing package that needs no adjustment or maintenance since it is greased and sealed for life. In addition, the overall hub weighs less because the bearing itself forms part of the hub. Air disc brakes are directly mounted to the knuckle, requiring no caliper-mounting bracket - another weight-saving feature. The axle series, which is antilock-ready, also features large induction hardened kingpins, large kingpin bushings, sealed thrust bearing, computer-aided digital toe-in adjustment, and a large lock angle for reduced turning circles. Integrally forged steering arms and load sensing are also standard equipment.