But any victory is seen as symbolic and temporary as Trump keeps people on both sides of the border guessing about how committed he is to a threatened 35-per-cent import tariff or other measures to steer new auto investment from Mexico to the U.S.
"If Trump enters office imposing tariffs as he said to BMW that he would, then we'll see a drop in Mexican exports because that tariff, of course, is going to push up prices," Gabriela Siller, head of economic analysis at Banco Base, said last week.
Forecasting firm LMC Automotive predicted that automakers will continue to invest in Mexico over the next four years despite tariff threats, and that the percentage of Mexico-built vehicles sold in the U.S. will rise.
That said, LMC acknowledged that until Trump's policies are detailed, "the environment is fluid and uncertainty remains high."
Minutes after Trump's swearing-in last week, the White House declared its intention to fulfill his pledge to seek a renegotiation of NAFTA, and to withdraw from the agreement altogether if it can't reach a pact that "gives American workers a fair deal."
Uncertainty over the Mexican auto industry and the broader export economy is already slowing investment in Mexico, Siller said. Economic growth could fall to between 1.2 per cent and 1.6 per cent this year. Estimated GDP growth for 2016 is about two per cent.
Mexican auto industry officials sought to focus on the positive by highlighting a banner 2016 for a sector that has taken decades to become a key driver of the economy and one of its few bright spots currently.
Mexico produced 3,465,615 cars and light trucks last year, for a two-per-cent increase over 2015, which was also a record year. Exports rose 0.3 per cent to 2,768,268 vehicles, according to the Mexican Automotive Industry Association.
While Mexico's auto exports to the U.S. grew 7.1 per cent last year to 2,133,724 vehicles, exports to other major markets such as Brazil, Canada, Europe and Asia all fell by double digits due to a variety of factors, from soft economic growth in South America to product shifts.