Ford Plans New Auto Plant in Mexico's San Luis Potosi

Ford Motor Co will announce a new automobile plant in the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi during the first quarter, three Mexican officials familiar with company plans said on Thursday.

The plant should produce around 350,000 cars annually, according to two officials, and the investment should be worth slightly over $1.5 billion, one of them said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ford declined to comment on the reports.

"We do not comment on speculation," company spokeswoman Kelli Felker said.

It is not clear yet which model will be built at the plant.

Ford said in November that it will stop building Focus compact cars at a factory in Wayne, Michigan in 2018. Officials at the United Auto Workers union have said the replacement for the current Focus will be made in Mexico.

The company has not yet said where it will go.

Mexico is an increasingly attractive production base for global carmakers, with infrastructure, supply base and productivity all improving, analysts say.

A recent plunge in the Mexican peso against the dollar to 18 to the greenback from about 13 in mid-2014 has also made the country more appealing for U.S. manufacturers.

The San Luis Potosi plant would be the latest in a series of major bets on Mexico's auto sector, where total investment in the industry had reached $19 billion in the first two years of President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration alone.

The president took office in December 2012.

(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez, Dave Graham, Luis Rojas and Adriana Barrera and Joseph White in Detroit; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Bernard Orr)