Mexico's auto industry on Wednesday predicted a strong rise in car and truck production next year with exports expected to soar, despite a forecast economic slowdown in the United States, its top market abroad.

Cesar Flores, head of the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (AMIA), told Reuters output by Mexico-based automakers will increase 12% in 2007 while exports will grow even more, seen up between 15 and 18%.

The news agency noted that Mexico's economy depends heavily on US demand, and economists fear a slowdown in the world's biggest economy could stem the flow of exports north from Mexico.

Flores reportedly brushed off concerns that a slide in US vehicle sales could hit the local industry.

In 2006, Mexican automakers expect to export about 1.6 million vehicles to the United States, he told Reuters, adding that, in November, exports by Mexico-based automakers rose 7.1% while production was up 9.9% from a year earlier.