CELAYA, Mexico - Honda opened a second factory in Mexico to capitalise on the country's rising power in the automotive sector and strengthen the Japanese automaker's foothold in North America.The R8.7-billion factory in the central city of Celaya will assemble 200 000 units a year there to contribute to Mexico's race to beat Canada and Japan as top car exporter to the US.Production of the Honda Jazz hatchback and a yet-to-be-named compact SUV will expand its presence in the Mexican and US markets.'GREAT EXPECTATIONS' Latin America's second-biggest economy has become an increasingly favoured destination for automakers thanks to its lower wages, skilled workforce and participation in a raft of free-trade pacts.Honda chief executive Takanobu Ito said: "We have great expectations for growth in the US and Mexican markets the Mexican market." The company predicts good growth potential for small cars.Mexico's president, Enrique Pena Nieto, opened the factory which will employ 3200 people. The country is now the world's eighth-most prolific automaker and No.4 exporter after Germany, South Korea and Japan.Pena Nieto said: "I am pleased to be here for the inauguration of this Honda factory, which recognizes that we are creating the optimal conditions to attract investments and to generate economic growth in our country." OVERTAKE IS IN THE PIPELINEIronically, Japanese automakers' investment in Mexico is helping the country to gain ground on Japan's auto exports to the US.Mexico is looking to overtake Japan for second place in 2014 in exporting units to its northern neighbour, almost 200 000 more than its home country, according to IHS Automotive consultancy.US, European and Asian automakers have flocked to Mexico. The new Honda plant is near a Mazda factory that began operations in January 2014, in consequence attracting parts-makers and making the area an industry hub.