Mexico vehicle manufacturers have predicted a fall in exports to key US markets for a fourth consecutive year in 2004, as key car makers rein in production to prepare for the launch of new models next year.

According to Reuters, at the start of 2004, top industry body the Mexican Automobile Industry Association, or AMIA, forecast a 10% rise in exports, driven by a recovery in the US economy. The United States accounts for 80% of Mexican car exports.

But despite a spike in March sales, up 5.7% on the year ago period, car exports in the first quarter dipped 6.6% as manufacturers Ford, Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler AG rejigged production plans, the report added.

"There could be a hole in exports for this year on account of the projects that have been announced," AMIA president Cesar Flores reportedly said.

Ford ended production of its five-door Focus model at its Hermosillo plant, in the northern state of Sonora, as it shifted assembly to its factory in Wayne, Michigan, Volkswagen trimmed production goals in Mexico for this year, as it prepared to roll out a new line of Golf and Jetta models for 2005 and DaimlerChrysler has trimmed production of its popular PT Cruiser model - which is made in Mexico for export to 90 countries - as the company focused on rolling out its new PT Cruiser convertible for 2005, Reuters added.