Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos inspects a locally assembled, Chinese sourced Chevrolet Sail after the Colomotores plant started body parts production in its new press shop

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos inspects a locally assembled, Chinese sourced Chevrolet Sail after the Colomotores plant started body parts production in its new press shop

General Motors' Colombian plant Colomotores in Bogotá has begun stamping 11 body parts for Chevrolet models assembled here, 17 months after plans to install a press shop were announced.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos was among officials at a ceremony to mark the start of local output which replaces some parts previously included in Sonic and Cobalt CKD assembly kits imported from China.

In a speech, Santos promised fewer tariffs and taxes to support the car assembly industry, reflecting policy changes made after free trade agreements were signed recently with Korea, the US, Mexico and Europe.

The current US$200m capital spend programme at the plant, due to end in 2015, includes hiring 300 extra workers, two presses (2,250 and 1,000 tonnes), 10 creasing robots and an extra six welding robots, and will expand Bogotá assembly output to 60,000 vehicles a year. Exports are likely in the future.

Colombia is now the third largest Latin American country producing GM body parts after Brazil and Argentina, and the new Colomotres press shop supplements domestic suppliers already stamping parts like bonnets (hoods) and roofs (for the locally-made Renault Symbol and Clio), floors (for Ford's Explorer) and fuel tanks (for Renault Logan, Chevrolet Aveo, Optra and Spark, and Mazda's BT 50).

The latest investment announcement follows last April’s news of a revamp of the Colombian Isuzu truck assembly line, on which GM spent $6m.

That line actually started operations here in 1957, initially assembling British Austin trucks. It has since accounted for 265,471 vehicles.