Who Will Make Your Car in 2025? Number 1: Rio, by Peter Mitchell

Posted on October 1, 2012


This series will examine the rise of the BRICS nations and their motor vehicle manufacturing industries

#1: We Go to Rio

The Brazilian car market has been humming along nicely in recent years and is now in 4thplace in the world.  That’s right, they sell more motor vehicles in Brazil than they do in the UK, or France, or Germany.  How did that happen?

Size of Global Car Markets

The car manufacturing world has been turned upside down since the global financial crisis of 2008.  We were all aware of the rise of Hyundai and Kia in South Korea, but our motoring public had no idea that the whole face of car making had been changing since the 1990s. Suddenly in 2008 we were faced with reality.  Bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors by the US government hastened moves that were afoot elsewhere.  We really are in a global car market now.

Most of us know that Asian countries like China and India are up and coming powers in car making, but what about South America? In Brazil in particular, we are seeing a move from the manufacture of head-office designs (often generations-old designs) to a new world of designing their own cars.   This was highlighted by the unveiling in January of the Ford Ecosport. It was designed in Brazil, for global markets, and shown first in India then in China. And it will be seen on the roads of North America, Europe, and Down Under within the next year.

Ford Previews All-New EcoSport at Auto Expo 2012 in New Delhi

The story of the Brazilian car market is quickly told. Starting with copies of Toyota Land Cruisers, then Volkswagen Kombis and Beetles, it added in a couple of home grown vehicles very early.  Then Chevrolet and Ford moved in in the 1960s, initially with trucks and work vehicles.  Fiat came about the same time. Mercedes Benz was in Brazil from the 1960s, but making trucks and buses only, until 1998.  When the Brazilian car market opened to imports in the 1990s, there was a flood of incomers opening factories there, including Nissan, Renault, Peugeot, Citroén, Honda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Chrysler and Audi.  Some of the cars produced by those makers are described on this page.

Their factories produced copies of the cars sold globally under those brand names. The most successful local car maker was Troller, with the T4 and Pantanal models of rugged 4WDs and utes. In 2007, it was acquired by Ford do Brasil.

As happened with car makers in Asia, so also the local Brazilian branches have grown in confidence.  The most outstanding result from this has been the 2012 Ford Ecosport.  According to Mark Schirmer of Ford Media, “our product development teams – design and engineering – based in Camacari, Brazil, were the lead engineers, with experts from around the Ford world contributing of course.”

Ford sees the Ecosport as becoming a global car.  While the previous model Ecosport was a South America–only product, Mr Schirmer says “we [Ford] think we will have a better global balance with the new car, which will launch in India and China and other markets in the coming 12 months. It is all-new, an added product in Asia.”

GM is not being left behind.  The Chevrolet Spin is a new small MPV.  According to Mr Marcos Munhoz, Vice President GM do Brasil, the Spin was developed by their team in Brazil , including the design, engineering and manufacturing engineering.  “it was first launched in Brazil… and it is under production in Brazil at the Sao Caetano do Sul plant… [its] main markets are South America and Asia.”

Chevrolet Spin 2013

According to Mr Munhoz, GM do Brasil is one of five product development centres for GM.  “GM do Brasil is responsible for the development of two global architectures: mid-size pickup truck (S10/Colorado) and small car for developing markets (Cobalt and Spin).

Other makers with cars in development in Brazil include Hyundai, with its rumoured B-segment SUV based on the ix-ionix concept.   Peugeot do Brasil has had a ute called the Hoggar, since 2010.  This was developed in Brazil from the 207 and is sold in South America currently.  It’s a similar story with the Renault/Dacia Sandero.

Keep an eye on Rio.

Posted in: Cars, Peter Mitchell