The Mexican auto industry is to receive a fillip from the government as it seeks to boost lending to consumers who are looking to buy cars.

Mexican authorities will offer 9.5bn pesos (US$648m) in credit to automakers' financing companies, banks and car distributors so they can lend to consumers, Reuters reported, citing a government statement.

Mexico experienced a huge fall in auto exports and production in January, industry data showed.

Amid slumping demand, output and shipments fell 50% year on year in the month, according to Mexican auto industry group AMIA and the Mexican government, the news agency noted.

The Mexican auto industry is under great pressure from the economic downturn. Earlier this month, it was announced that around 600 jobs were to be axed from a General Motors plant in northern Mexico because of falling sales in the US. The job losses will occur during this month and the next at the Ramos Arizpe factory.

In January, Volkswagen's Mexican unit said it was set to axe 800 jobs at its plant in Puebla, which will also have a shutdown in March and an extended Easter break.

According to local industry groups, production in Mexico could fall by up to 20% in 2009.