This is the fifth and last installment of the Pictorial History of the Brazilian Car, a five part series, brought to you by our boy in Brazil, Marcelo de Vasconcellos. Part one one took you back to the beginnings, part two did let you revisit the turbulent 60s. Part three took your to Brazil’s malaise years, with nothing more than facelifts. Part four took you to a Brazil of change. The fifth and last part finally brings you to the past decade.
The Workers’ Party finally elected their eternal candidate, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, as President. Before he took power, there was some panic and almost 5 reais were necessary to buy a dollar. Inflation seemed to be back. However, after Lula took over, he implemented a steady as she goes policy that calmed the markets down. Lula in fact deepened some and kept most of his predecessor’s economic policies and obtained great success.
Economically, Brazilians had never been better off. Jobs are plentiful. Brazilians come back home in droves (especially those who had gone to America and Japan). Actually, the risk now is that there won’t be enough labor. The construction industry for example already shows clear signs of this. Wages also are on the way up. Credit becomes available in greater amounts than ever. Sound familiar?
All these factors contribute to an astonishing fact. Brazil is now the world’s fourth largest car market. Ahead of all the European countries. From 1 million cars in the 80s, to almost 2 million in the 90s, by 2010 sales reached almost 3.5 million.
Imports are gaining market share and set off all kinds of alarms, bells and whistles in the halls of power. Hyundai is the main beneficiary of this. After a slow start when imports were freed in the 90s, their presence has been gaining speed since the beginning of the new milennium. So much so that they succeeded in selling more than 100 000 cars in 2010 (not counting associate Kia, which sold 50 000).
Fiat took over and consolidated its leadership in the 00s. Really redesigning and improving its cars and engines, and adding on to what they already sold in the 90s (in the old Uno’s case in the 80s, BTW Fiat tried to kill it many times, but the market just won’t stop buying – as many have said – the Uno is the new Beetle), Fiat gained greater and greater acceptance.
Here are some cars they introduced into their line-up (with varying degrees of success).
The successful Idea.
The not that successful Linea (which I think would make a great new Dodge Neon).
Their new Uno also came out this year and has created a huge splash.
If Fiat finds enough production capacity, this car might just take away from VW’s Gol the title of most sold car in Brazil.
Fiat also sells a car that must look curious to Americans. (You might get used to it – acquired taste.) Feast your eyes on the Doblò, a car-based commercial van for passengers. Great for families.
Just for show (and that beloved, but elusive halo effect), Fiat also imports and sells for absurd prices the delightfully charming 500. Especially with Rio as the backdrop.
A leader in the flex fuel car technology, Fiat now shares with VW top mindspace in Brazil. Particularly with the younger crowd. Very importantly, the last shreds of their failed marriage with GM are all forgotten, even in Brazil. Having bought the Tritec factory in Paraná, Fiat no longer has to use GM’s rugged, but otherwise hopelessly outdated 1.8 liter mill. Fiat now offers cars in Brazil with engines anywhere from 1.0L to 1.8 16V (and everything in between), with output varying from 75 ponies to 156. Quite adequate for our market.
Rattled VW (Was erlauben die sich! Fiat!) answered with a broadside. They launched the Fox.
Followed by the SpaceFox.
Followed by the CrossFox (Fox in off-road drag).
Foxy as they are, VW suffers from an attitude problem. Sometimes, VW still behaves like it’s the uncontested sales leader. When launching a new car or version, they often ignore what Brazilians want and insist on doing what they believe is right, ramming down people’s throats not exactly what they want, but rather whatever is convenient for VW. The Wolfsburg covenant.
An example is the Fox itself, which they launched and sold for its first full year with just 2 doors. They did that at a time when nobody wanted to endure the humiliation of flipping a seat forward and clambering to the backside. When Volkswagen held the market in a stranglehold of more than 50 percent (which they haven’t come close to since at least the middle of the 80s), they could perform such antics with impunity. Nowadays, where every sale is hotly contested, such behavior can only be put down as hubris and arrogance.
What else? Oh yeah! They also launched the Polo.
And finally Volkswagen got around to launching a Gol that follows the modern recipe for small cars. They achieved a really modernized Gol. Maybe because the Chinese demanded it – the Gol is also built at the VW joint venture in China.
Volkswagen also relaunched the Gol’s sedan version, the Voyage. The decision to cancel the Voyage after the launch of the second generation Gol back in the 90s was a decision VW just can’t explain, considering the potential of that segment in this developing nation.
Volkswagen’s downfall from first place was very much aided by this ill-advised move. However, the Parati SW is no longer available. The SpaceFox is supposed to fill in for it.
GM? From the glory days of the 90s, oh GM how far back you’ve gone! Apparently in the midst of a fundamental change (from depending on Opel to dependence on Daewoo), GM do Brasil seems lost somehow. Their latest offerings have not been home runs. Neither the Agile …
… nor the new Vectra.
GM relies heavily on very old cars based on the first generation Corsa platform. As evidenced by this Classic.
Or that Celta.
And that museum-quality Prisma. From having been at the forefront of technology in the 90s, they are now viewed as some of the most hopelessly backwards cars in Brazil.
Ford on the other hand got frisky in this decade. The EcoSport is a huge success.
The (new for Brazil) Ka …
… and the old/new Fiesta have held their own and sell well enough.
The Ford Focus is considered by many to be the best car in Brazil. Their Fusion is the leader in the “luxury” segment of the Brazilian market.
Renault seemingly is changing its strategy, too. They basically now make here Dacias. Namely the Logan – the one in the picture is just like my wife’s –
– and the Sandero.
There is also an old, facelifted Clio, and and a new for 2011 Samsung, sorry Renault Fluence. Renault is growing, but is it enough?
The other French, PSA, seems lost, too. With no low cost car (like Renault’s Dacia) they seem to be too expensive for Brazil. Their position seems tenuous.
The Japanese, Honda and Toyota, are the leaders in the so-called executive market segment. A Corolla is the archetypical executive car in Brazil. However, the Nipponese luster has worn off somewhat. Competitors are reaching their levels of reliability. And they seem to have been overambitious in terms of pricing. We know, the Yen is high. But expect no mercy from a Brazilian that had been tortured by his own currency. The Japanese are facing a definite backlash. Can they weather the storm?
The Chinese are just arriving. However, they have made inroads at least in the light commercial vehicle sector. In terms of passenger cars, their full frontal assault is not happening – yet. A topic for the next Pictorial History of the Brazilian Cars perhaps, to be written 10 years from now.