Rising costs, shifting demand and a maturing market in North America, combined with high labor costs and tough union negotiations are pushing Ford to look for ways to improve its situation, and according the company's local CEO, Mexico is rising as an integral part of Ford's global future. The carmaker has even gone so far as to say it thinks Mexico could become the world's leading producer of automobiles.

Ford is already ramping up production in the country, with total output expected to hit 500,000 complete cars, 700,000 engines and 300,000 transmissions by 2012, reports Automotive News. The increased output will result in 30,000 new jobs and contracts with 70 suppliers. That kind of return on investment is unheard of in the U.S., where the $5 billion they company has invested in Mexico would not go nearly so far.

The key to moving Mexico forward as an industry force will require a fundamental shift in its role, however. Currently carmakers are taking advantage of the low labor costs and manufacturing ability within the country, but to become a global powerhouse, design and development will have to come to the forefront as well, according to Ford of Mexico CEO Louise Goeser.

Coordinating the resources of the carmakers, the local suppliers and parts manufacturers and the Mexican government to move forward will take time and effort, however. "We have to develop new strategies to remain competitive, and we must do it together. We need to have a highly developed supply chain, innovative research, flexible manufacturing, total responsibility and to work together as a team," Goeser said.