MEXICO CITY, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Mexico's annual auto sales rose by 6.8% in 2021, but were still far short of pre-pandemic levels as the car industry struggles to cope with shortfalls in semiconductors, official data showed on Wednesday.
Mexico sold 1,014,680 light vehicles last year, according to figures from the national statistics agency (INEGI) after sales fell 27.9% to 950,063 in 2020, a nine-year low. There were 1.3 million vehicles sold in 2019 before the pandemic while 2016 saw a record 1.6 million sales.
Fausto Cuevas, head of the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (AMIA), recently forecast Mexico's auto production would only return to pre-pandemic levels in late 2023 or in 2024.
Car production has been hobbled in recent months by a global semiconductor shortage, prompting automakers across North America to implement rolling shutdowns and curb output.
The bottlenecks hit the industry in the second half of last year and during the October-December period, sales were the weakest they had been in the fourth quarter since 2010.
Semiconductors are an indispensable component for the automakers, who need them for a wide variety of systems such as safety, navigation and entertainment. COVID-19 outbreaks in Asian semiconductor manufacturing hubs have slowed production. (Reporting by Kylie Madry;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)