The second largest Volkswagen factory is located in Puebla, Mexico. Volkswagen de Mexico was established in 1964 and construction of the Puebla plant began in January of 1965. In October of 1970, production of the Combi (combination craft vehicle) began. The plant has an area of 3,000,000 square meters with buildings on an area of about 480,000 square meters. In its 50 years, the Puebla plant has produced over 10 million vehicles.
Volkswagen employees the most amount of works in Puebla. In 1970 the plant had only 30 workers, but today that number is at 15,000. Like its own town, the Puebla plant has its own fire station, medical center, five banks, and a travel agency. More than a hundred buses provide free rides to workers who live in the Puebla area. Volkswagen even boasts the biggest restaurant in Latin America: eight separate units; preparing and serving some 14,000 meals each day. The average salary at the Puebla plant is $20,000.
Volkswagen de México has gone through three major stages. The first stage lasts from the 60s to the late 80s, the period in which the company mainly supplied the domestic market. The second stage lasted from the late 80s until the signing of the NAFTA, a time when the world economic plunge forced the company to move production from its plants in the United States to Puebla. In the third and current stage, Volkswagen de México becomes concentrated on exporting. Eighty percent of the Volkswagen vehicles produced are destined for export to more than 120 countries in the world. Two of the most iconic Volkswagen vehicles in Mexico were the Combi and the Vocho.
The Combi is a fifteen-passenger van that has had its seats removed and replaced with small benches. These benches are aligned so that when passengers are seated, they are facing each other and have to hold their bags. It was not difficult to get on the van, people simply pointed their index finger out to hail a Combi when one was approaching on the street. After getting on the van, the passenger would tell the driver where they were going and would pay at the end of the trip. Working class Mexicans in small communities used this mode of transportation to get to and from work. In the 1980s, pesero (a microbus that’s name comes from the fact that in the beginning of this form of transport a flat fee of one peso was charged per ride) owners started using Combis. The government was unable to run a public transportation system that was able to serve the needs of the rapidly growing environment and it caused high demand that made them a very good business.
On October 23, 1967, the first Vocho (Volkswagen Beetle) rolled off the assembly line at the Puebla plant and production lasted until 2003. By 1973, a third of cars sold in Mexico were Vochos and they became one of the most massed-produced vehicles. In Mexico, the Vocho was the car preferred by taxi drivers, but the final blow to production came when Mexico City passed an ordinance requiring that all taxis have four doors, citing safety concerns as their reason. While Vochos might not be in production anymore, they are still everywhere! They are reliable, easy to repair and super cost effective.