Asian auto makers are increasingly looking at Latin America as the ideal region in which to expand their production facilities.

In recent days, as reported by just-auto, Mazda announced it will build an engine and assembly plant for small cars in Salamanca, north of Mexico City.

The move followed similar actions by Chinese rivals Chery and JAC which recently announced their intention to build manufacturing facilities in Venezuela and Argentina respectively.

The Mazda site will be built in partnership with Sumitomo and will assemble the Mazda 2 [Demio] and 3 [Axela] models for markets in South America and Central America, the company said in a statement.

"This new investment shows that Mexico is on the right track" to attract foreign investment, the country's president, Felipe Calderon, told local media.

The initiative will bring Mazda cars closer to booming Brazil which is now the world's fourth biggest market after China, the US and Japan. It came after Mazda decided to stop producing the 6 [Atenza] in Flat Rock, Michigan, at the end of the current line's life cycle, citing future uncertainties at the site which it operates with Ford.

The new, US$500m Mexican complex will start producing cars in April 2013 and have an annual capacity of 140,000 vehicles.

Meanwhile, China's Chery is set to invest $200m to build a manufacturing facility in Venezuela, which will be its second largest in the region after its Brazilian site. The factory, which will make 20,000 units a year, will be inaugurated at the end of 2011 to supply the domestic market.

"Venezuela is a closed market which means it has great potential we can harness by building a factory there to sell in the local market," Chery's vice president Du Weigianq was quoted as telling Chinese press.

Chery did not return phone calls but a Venezuelan industry observer confirmed the company's plans to build the factory.

The company, which already operates factories in Brazil and Uruguay, will specialise in making inexpensive models in Venezuela where there is growing demand for economical sedans, the observer said.

Chery's move follows Chinese compatriot JAC's decision to set up a factory in San Juan, Argentina, to make trucks.

The company decided to build the site in Argentina to better access the Mercosur free trade market which comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and achieve economies of scale through local manufacturing, according to a company statement.

The new $3m site will be ready in September and make two "light trucks" and a tractor for which JAC would not provide production volumes or other details. The vehicles mostly will be exported to Brazil.

Brazil itself has also seen a recent flurry of manufacturing investment from leading automakers including Honda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki.

ANALYSIS: Chinese government backs automakers' global adventures