By on May 17, 2013

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This week, the idea of Brazil’s cars being “unsafe” due to inferior construction has been gaining a lot of currency on the blogosphere after the Associated Press published a report on this topic. Very few outlets have anyone posted in Brazil to do any deeper digging, but TTAC does. Unfortunately, our man Marcelo de Vasconcellos is currently in exams right now (good luck, Senhor!) and was unable to write up an article refuting these claims. Still, Marcelo took the time out to talk to TTAC about the problems behind the article.

The various articles floating around the web allege that Brazilian cars are doomed to be “unsafe” due to poor workmanship, excessive cost-cutting and poor grades of steel. Marcelo was able to speak to people at Fiat Brazil, as well as some engineering professors, and found out that the truth is that road fatalities are up, but not for the reasons people think they are.

A report by the Associated Press cites electricty savings on welding and shoddy workmanship as a key culprit behind the poor crash safety of Brazil’s cars

“If you save on electricity, you save on cost. One way to save electricity is either reducing the number of spot welds or using less energy for each spot weld made. This affects structural performance in the event of a crash.”

Marcelo asserts that since most of the cars sold in Brazil are unibody subcompacts, this argument holds little weight. Welds are done via robot, and the process is highly standardized, with little variation. Furthermore, many Brazilian made cars are exported. Fiats are sent back to Italy, while Volkswagens are exported to Argentina, the Middle East, Russia and other locations. Any cars sold in Europe must meet strict Euro NCAP standards, and the European magazines publish the results in great detail.

Brazilian steel is also blamed due to its apparently poor quality. Marcelo asserts this is false as well. Brazil’s iron ore is a sought after commodity on the world market as well (especially in places like Australia and Brazil), and Brazil is home to ValeInco, one of the world’s leading steel producers. This is far from the Eastern European sheetmetal that was notorious for causing Fiats to rust within minutes of coming into contact with road salt. We are dealing with a globally marketed commodity that must be competitive.

Marcelo instead places the blame on the increasing number of cars on the road, piloted by first-time drivers on poorly maintained road infastructure

The professor [Marcelo’s friend who is an engineering professor] also commented that while the article showed an increase of 70% in fatalities (I think that’s what the article said, I have not read it) it did not say that the market has grown more than 150% over the last 15 years. Many, many of these buyers are first time drivers. Due to credit, many people don’t have the money to buy a used car (still more expensive here than in America) but they do have credit to buy said car in 60 months.

So, first time buyer, many times the first car in the family, many times young people, a disaster is waiting to happen. The other ingredient is of course the government. Badly maintained roads, almost no police presence on streets – an over-reliance on radars, just recently a crack down on drunk driving (the limit in Brazil is now 0, yes zero), lack of signs, roads designed and engineered and built in the 60s. Plus traffic conditions lots and lots of very old, decrepit really, buses and trucks…

Of course small cars are involved in more accidents. 70% of the market in Brazil is Palio, Uno, Gol, Fox, Celta, Classic, Sandero, Logan, 208, Ka, Fiesta and derivatives. All considered subcompacts in America. Of course they are in the majority of accidents. Of course most people get killed or maimed in them. A Gol sells 30k a month, a Corolla is lucky to get 3k…

 

As far as crash testing goes, Marcelo admits that Brazil does have a long way to go with both crash testing standards and mandatory safety features, but notes that the country is improving.

For you to have an idea, a Renault Sandero recently crash tested did better than a Chinese JAC 3. Detail: the Sandero was not equipped with airbags or ABS and the JAC was. Brazilian built Corollas got the same results as American Corollas. Now, airbags and ABS become mandatory next year. Look for Brazilian cars to then get the same results as their first world brethren. Take an American Fusion, strip it of its airbags and it’ll get the same 1, 2 or 3 stars Brazilian cars have been getting in such tests.

Brazilian cars are sort of middle of the road. They are not deathtraps but they are not first world because they don’t have lots of active safety systems. But they do have a lot of passive systems, collapsible steering wheel columns, collapsible brake peddles, fuel cut off systems in case of accidents, crumple zones, 3 point seat belts, they are all there.

While it would be irresponsible to ignore the AP’s report out of hand, it’s worth highlighting some of the non-car related factors in Marcelo’s interview. The lack of any drunk driving regulations, the substantial amount of inexperienced drivers on poorly maintained roads with scant traffic laws and the lack of any real enforcement of the rules of the road is clearly a recipe for disaster. Whether these locally-built subcompacts are in fact death traps is another debate that I’m not comfortable wading into.

One point that nobody has raised yet is the obscene prices that Brazilian consumers pay for cars. Often times they are 2-3 times more expensive than in America. Brazilian consumers could potentially be driving inferior cars and paying through the nose for them.

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65 Comments on “The Truth About Brazilian Cars Being “Unsafe”...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Ouch .

    I used to have some Brazilian VW Beetles , they were terrific cars but almost _ZERO_ basic quality control anywhere in the build process .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Nate,

      How old were those Beetles? In their case they were built “by hand”. Things like that just don’t exist anymore. VW makes a big deal here about how their cars are laser-robot-welded nowadays.

      • 0 avatar
        chas404

        If the Brazilians (guessing they are like my Colombian friends in Colombia) don’t wear seatbelts or have kids car seats what the heck does it matter about the car’s technology???????

        Yes you can still buy a few cars in Colombia without airbags still ( a few ).

        FYI high car taxes means older cars with older safety tech on the road. Also means many people on mopeds getting creamed by buses.

        • 0 avatar

          Here in Brazil it’s different. Seat belts are mandatory as are kids seats (up until what an average kid weighs at 7 yrs of age). These laws are imposed.

          Up until 2 yrs ago, only about 30% of cars sold in Brazil had airbags. As of next year, 100% will (as well as abs).

          • 0 avatar
            chas404

            wow. colombia is still wild west in terms of seatbelts. have to beg gfriend to put one on. airbags and abs most cars now have in colombia. your posts are interesting keep it up. thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            I’ve begged girlfriends to take their seatbelts off.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        “Brazil’s iron ore is a sought after commodity on the world market as well (especially in places like Australia and Brazil)”

        Well that is incorrect. We are the world’s major exporter of Iron Ore.

  • avatar
    leshnah

    Well, what were you expecting? Many here beg for cheaper, more basic cars. You want that? You get cars that are more dangerous.
    I live in Chile and work for the company that imports Fiat. We sell both european made Fiats and brazilian made ones. The european ones are FAR better equipped, safer, with much better fit and finish. Funny thing is: Fiat do Brasil can supply cars for their home market, and charge absurd prices for them for one reason: high import tariffs. Brasil has very high import tariffs, for everything from cars to cell phones, as a way of encouraging manufacturers to come to Brasil. That ends up driving prices up for cars and other stuff that just simply can’t cut it.
    For instance, Fiat Punto is buit both in Italy and Brasil. The italian one is miles better than the brazilian one, and still it’s more expensive to bring them from Brasil (right next door to Chile) than from Italy!! A brazilian Palio, a car years behind a Punto in pretty much every sense, would end up being more expensive than the Punto. That’s how you end up with cheaper cars here in Chile (a small country, with no car industry whatsoever) than in the country they were built at from the beggining (we still bring some brazilian cars over, Fiorinos and Stradas mainly). We are a VERY open market, with about 60 car and pickup brands in a 15 million people country. I’ve got some stories to tell about this crazy chilean market, maybe some other time…
    It’s not uncommon to see brazilians here asking if they can buy a Punto here and drive it back to Brasil. They do that with Iphones and Ipads already…

    • 0 avatar
      alexndr333

      If a Fiat from Italy is miles better than its Brazilian counterpart, the Brazilians do indeed have a long, long way to go.

      • 0 avatar
        leshnah

        Fiat’s european cars are quite good for what they are: inexpensive, well built, small cars. I drive a Grande Punto, with a tiny (for the US) 1.400cc engine, 78HP. Well equipped (ABS, dual airbags, steering mounted radio controls, start&stop technology). It’s not fast, but looks good, drives well, and is REALLY cheap to run.
        It drives about 17km per liter of gasoline, which ammounts to about 40 US miles to the gallon. That is specially important in a country where gas is about US$ 1,8 per liter, US$ 6,8 per gallon. And it cost me US$ 17.000, new… Not that bad.
        When people here and in other websites ask for cheap, economical, not ugly and uncomplicated cars, a Fiat Punto is something that seems to fit the bill. You can’t always have your cake and eat it too…

    • 0 avatar

      Hey leshnah,

      Glad to hear your experience. As to the tariffs, it’s what you say, in Brazil we’re almost 200 million people, less educated, less well off than people in Chile. As these people are not needed in farms anymore, you just got to find employment for them somewhere. The auto industry (and others) fit the bill nicely. I’ll only dispute one point, the high prices are not all about tariffs. It’s a long discussion and I won’t get into it here, but margins are much higher here. Yes taxes are very high, but couple that with margins and there you have the high prices.

      As to the cars, you said it pretty much. I think the finishing might be meaner, the sound deadening might be less, and these all contribute to the “sensation” the car is worse built. In this case I say not true. Compared to the Chinese cars we get in Brazil, I think we’re miles ahead and not that far off from the Korean, American, Japanese and European cars. Compare the finishing in a Brazlian built Linea and a Mexican-built-for-America Fiat Freemont (Dodge Journey). I fail to see any superiority in the North American product.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        We live in an age of global over capacity. Even if you haven’t studied microeconomics, you should appreciate that other producers won’t leave large margins on the table when there aren’t government imposed barriers to entering the market. Suppose you’re PSA and choking on extra capacity for mediocre cars. In Brazil, they’re paying far more for cars that are no better. Would you A.) Pay the high costs of idling factories in Europe, or B.) Export your extra capacity to Brazil, where you’d have a huge price advantage if you kept your margins in line with those you use in other markets where you can no longer give your cars away? So why don’t they do B? It isn’t because they’d rather risk shuttering factories.

        • 0 avatar

          True CJ, true. I’d rather pay some of this extra price and “buy” myself some protection as gainfully employed people will do less stupid things. Over the last 15 years the general sensation of public safety has improved (even if the numbers are skewed by the drug trade that by some accounts are the direct or indirect responsible for 90% of the ever increasing homicide rate, take that away and we’re pretty placid) and lots of that has to do with people working. The fact is, the general trend is that car prices are falling in absolute terms.

          The leading magazine here has a section called “Grandes Brasileiros” were they highlight cars of yore and do the math to update the prices to today. People even 20 years ago were paying US$40k for a Chevy Monza that came sans AC, ABS, crumple zones etc. Now they have the privilege of paying that much for a Corolla. How much safer, better, more economic, reliable is a modern day Corolla over an 80s Monza? And the price is the same.

          Baby steps my friend, baby steps.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Thanks for your reply. It wasn’t clear from your earlier post that you recognized the government’s role in pricing. Brazil has a very low car ownership rate, with 259 motor vehicles(excluding motorcycles) per 1,000 people in 2011. It will be interesting to see if protectionist policies can actually create a large middle class rather than merely keeping idle hands busy.

          • 0 avatar

            Hey CJ, it’s always a pleasure debating with you.

            So far policies do seem to be working. People moving up from E class to D and from D to C have been growing (more than ever before, though slowing the last 2 yrs). These are the people who have grown the auto market from 1.5 million a year to 3.5 million in the course of two decades. Also, the number of people who can’t even be put into the E class they are so miserable, well these are under 10% of the population for the first time ever. Of course, all of this is not just do to protectionism, there’s the matter of public spending under control, a free-floating yet stable currency, more stable rules and regulations, greater competition, less young people etc., etc.

      • 0 avatar
        leshnah

        From what I’ve seen, as an importer for Fiat, you are right: margins seem to be much better. Hence the resistance from Fiat do Brasil to allow more exports to Chile. It’s all down to cost of opportunity. Why sell in Chile for $X, if you can sell in Brasil for $X+n…

        About the comparison between Freemont and Linea… I don’t know. We also import Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler, and while their quality is not the best, I think Freemont (Journey) is way nicer than Linea!

        • 0 avatar

          Is the Freemont a better car than the Linea? Quite possibly. In terms of finishing though, I really don’t see the difference. I think the false chrome and plastic bits in the Freemont, and that giant Fiat logo on the car’s front are quite cheesy! But that’s just me and my impression.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Did you read the article?

      The whole thing was about how Brazil’s dangerous roads are due to every factor BUT the cars.

      Imagine, if you took the time to read the article instead of type this manifesto.

      In the US, fatalities per mile are lower, but accidents per mile are higher. Like Brazil, the drivers and driving culture are the problem.

      • 0 avatar
        leshnah

        I realize that, I read the article too, thanks for reminding me that. The point I was trying to make is that, besides driver inexperience, lax laws and badly mantained roads, the cars aren’t that good either.
        I’m not blaiming the quality of the iron or the welds, but a market that is very protective of their local production and unevolved when it comes to safety equipment. For most cars ABS, airbags, and stability control are either inexistent or optional.
        Besides, reading the article does not stop me from either:
        a) Agreeing
        b) Disagreeing
        c) Trying to make another point
        That’s the beauty of conversation and respectful discussions…

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    “The other ingredient is of course the government.” Brazilian enforcement of Brazilian laws is an oxymoron.

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    I need to ask two things.
    1) you state “Of course small cars are involved in more accidents.” I don’t believe there are statistics to backup that small cars get in more accidents per mile than big cars. There are MORE small cars (cheaper) than big cars in the world which would explain why there may be more absolute crashes but you stated “Of course small cars are involved in more accidents.”, with no backup and then went on to say Brazilian cars are mostly small so thats why there are a lot of accidents. There isn’t a shred of reasonable fact there.
    2) “The lack of any drunk driving regulations…is clearly a recipe for disaster.” Are you saying in the past – because currently the limit it 0, as in zero, as in you can’t have anything to drink and drive, the opposite of what you said.

    • 0 avatar

      i tried to say exactly what you’re saying. There are more small cars involved in more accidents because there are more small cars. The reports say that small cars are involved in disproportionate numbers and that’s wrong. The news i have is that trucks, buses and motorcycles get, proportionately, into more accidents than their absolute numbers in traffic.

      As to drunk driving there was a bit of noise in my communication with Derek. What i said is that the gov is cracking down hard now. 20 yrs ago it was not a problem, there were laws but they were enforced haphazardly. Ten years ago they started going after drunks. That little constitutional trifle of not producing evidence against oneself gets in the way. Now it seems they have worked a way around that and if you don’t blow the analyzer a world of hurt can ensue.

      Hope I’ve made myself clearer now.

  • avatar
    Ltd783

    Could a lot of this also have to do with the particular models that sell well in Brazil? Not the construction of those models, but the fact that a lot of them of are much older designs still produced locally for S. America and the rest of the developing world.

    I.E. a US market Jetta is going to be safer that a Brazilian VW Gol (size difference aside) not because of shoddy construction, but because that Jetta is a decade newer design, with more designed-in safety? I mean, they still sell the VW Kombi (Bus) new, that has to hurt safety statistics.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Ltd783,

      It’s true what you say. Some of the cars sold here are indeed very old (old Uno – 80s design, Celta, Classic, Ka – 90s design) but they are on the way out. Due to the new launches, GM Onix, Hyundai HB20, Toyota Etios, Renault Logan family, Nissan March/Versa the competition is scrambling to get their act together. The cars I mentioned have raised the bar and the other cars are improving just to stay competitive. Fact is that these new cars are mostly bigger, safer and more refined.

      The Jurassic survivors of the Brazilian industry, the VW Kombi (Bus) and Fiat Uno Mille will probably not make it next year. VW has confirmed that they could not retrofit airbags into the Kombi (though try they did), while Fiat is playing coy.

      Technology lasts longer here because people are less demanding and regulations are laxer. We are catching up though.

  • avatar
    08Suzuki

    Since the IIHS Overlap Frontal article seems to be closed to comment I might as well tackle both of those topics here.

    Regarding the Brazil issue, I have no idea why people would think the Brazilian steel is so much cheaper and why they would go with fewer spot welds with no actual sources to back that up. Blame typical journalistic sensationalism I guess. Marcelo is certainly correct in the severe gaps in drivers’ ability and skills, combined with the lack of proper infrastructure. I’d also like to know how the 0 BAC policy will work out for them, given the latest balyhoo over the .5 limit here.

    As for the other article, I think a few things need to be clarified over the IIHS Frontal Overlap Test, beyond the domineering discussions over LGBT’s role in Subaru and the poor performance of the Wrangler. The IIHS Frontal Overlap Test is brand-new – in fact I think this is the first model year where they’ve even begin testing for it altogether. The IIHS devised the Frontal Overlap Test in no light manner whatsoever – it’s the culmination of years of examining statistical data, the discover of quite a few anomalies and then narrowing down what the exact cause of those fatalities into a new paradigm of crash testing that simply didn’t exist or was properly anticipated before. The end result is that, quite frankly, from a safety standpoint, nearly every car on the road right now is flat-out obsolete, and that will probably continue to be so until the 2015 or even 2016 model year when manufacturers finally catch up with this (I can guarantee you that nearly everyone who will be reading this will be driving a “death trap” if you go strictly by Frontal Offset results).

    This isn’t something that is unique to SUVs – even most high-end luxury cars (the first cars to have their IIHS Frontal Overlap results publicly published) suffered extremely poorly, with Volvo being the only “Good” rated vehicle in the test. Once again this is mainly the result of a previously unanticipated safety situation. Think back to when the IIHS first started the Frontal Offset (not to be confused with the Frontal Overlap) tests – most cars being sold brand-new then failed miserably too. Yes, cars have gotten safer since (and they’re still very safe vehicles now), and that’s entirely the point. But it seems to be a point taken too far – or perhaps simply taken incorrectly – given the comments I’ve read (when not tackling LGBT and Wrangler issues).

    Unless you believe Nader, no manufacturer deliberately tries to engineer an unsafe vehicle. I can’t explain why the Forrester was the only one to get a “Good” ranking, or why the others did so poorly. I honestly doubt Subaru anticipated the IIHS Offset Overlap test, so it’s either a fluke or a legitimate effort at over-engineering – and over-engineering, isn’t necessarily an automatic good thing. Over-engineering has benefits, no doubt – but they also tend to increase the cost and weight of the car, and if there’s little anticipation for a certain newly-discovered safety need, there’s little incentive to engineer it to those standards. It’s not a sign that an auto manufacturer is uncaring or cheap or inferior, it’s a conscious cost-benefit decision that engineers spend their entire education being trained to handle.

    VA Terrapin said “The “substance” of this article? The substance is that you’re safer in a Japanese compact CUV than you are in a German, American or Korean compact CUV. Add other factors like fuel economy, performance, reliability and room, it’s clear that the best compact CUVs are Japanese.” This is…well, there’s no way getting around it. This is the stupidest thing I’ve read all week. Not only does it ignore the fact that exactly one out of a few Japanese small SUVs recieved a “good” rating but it’s also delving into the same sense of smug superiority that results in Prius drivers being universally hated and it’s just as outright offensive as the anti-LGBT accusations for implying that Americans, Germans and Koreans aren’t capable of engineering vehicles as well as the Japanese (a nation that during WWII enslaved and raped thousands of Chinese and Koreans, if we’re going to play the nationalism card). And that’s what a lot of it boils down to – in many ways the IIHS rankings serve little more than as marketing points, bragging rights and douchebag bulletins. Any car is going to be a compromise in engineering – Volvos rank great with the IIHS (as I’ve said they were amongst the first to score “Good” ratings in the Frontal Overlap test) but score very poorly with J.D. Power rankings, and it would be insane for a consumer to judge a car shopping experience based on only one such criterion (and such a shopper will get exactly what’s deserving). If total safety is really that important, you’d petition your state senator to ban all non self-driving cars off the road and make that a national priority – or better yet, ban all cars period and tell the government to start investing in public transportation. After all, buses have been shown to be extremely survivable in a crash.

    • 0 avatar
      sanmusa

      The 0 BAC in Brazil is not quite as bad as it seems. There is a certain lower threshold where you are actually labeled as a criminal, as opposed to just getting a ticket. An uncle of mine who lives in Rio de Janeiro was stopped by the police and blew a very low 0.02 BAC. They took his license away for a month, he had to do some retraining and pay a fine. Other than that he was clear, no points on license, and did not count as a bone fide DUI. I think the limit for a DUI is 0.08, if I am not wrong. At that level you get the full brunt of the law, including the possibility of longer jail time and losing your license for an extended period. As it stands right now the lower BAC levels are more of a nuisance, but already proving effective at stopping drunk driving in cities where the cops enforce the law. In Rio de Janeiro, a city notorious for their corrupt cops, when there is a “blitz” (what Brazilians call when the cops do a road block) to get drunk drivers, there are external, non-police observers, who are there to ensure there is no corruption and that no one gets out of the road block when they blow a BAC over zero. According to my mom, who is an economist in Rio, the system has worked well and these blitzes have been largely effective and not the usual bribery cash-cows the cops liked in the past.

      • 0 avatar

        You are right, but that was a few months ago. The limit now is 0. Of course there are some constitutional questions and the effectiveness of the measures vary from state to state, but IIRC there are more than 4000 drivers with suspended licenses and more than a 1000 who have lost their license.

    • 0 avatar
      CapVandal

      Great comment.

      The fact that almost all the vehicles got solid greens on everything BUT the new small offset test implies that all major manufacturers can pass the new IIHS test with next model redesigns.

      Per the IIHS regarding the 2013 Fusion:

      “The Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ were redesigned for the 2013 model year. Beginning with 2013 Fusion models built after early December 2012, structural changes were made to improve occupant protection in small overlap frontal crashes (note: information about when a specific vehicle was manufactured is on the certification label typically affixed to the car on or near the driver door). The tested Fusion and all 2013 MKZ models were built after the structural changes were in place.”

      The Fusion got an Acceptable rating (vs a Good for the Camray/Accord).

      Is it really the ‘best’ test to engineer to?

      Just watching the videos is convincing.

      I’m seriously thinking about a new car for exactly this reason.

    • 0 avatar
      b787

      According to IIHS, 25% of all fatalities in front collisions happen when the overlap between the two cars is small. If car manufacturers had been serious about safety, they should have analysed real world crashes involving their cars and arrived to the same conclusions. But the thing is most carmakers don’t care about real world safety, they only care about crash test results which could be used for marketing.

      Of course, every engineer has to optimise his design for his company to be competitive, but the problem isn’t in engineering – it is about objectives. They choose to optimise their cars for existing crash tests, not for real world safety. I’m not claiming manufacturers are intentionally engineering unsafe vehicles, but they are indeed cheap and uncaring.

      Since car makers were caught by surprise, most of their cars performed poorly or marginaly, but there are some standouts. Subaru consistently performed good – besides the relatively new Forrester, both Legacy and Outback (which were engineered long before the test introduction) scored acceptable, so I don’t believe its just luck. On the other hand, ALL Toyota and Lexus vehicles got a poor rating, which is dissapointing for a company who claims to invest huge amounts of money into safety.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        “According to IIHS, 25% of all fatalities in front collisions happen when the overlap between the two cars is small.”

        Which means that 75% of all fatalities in front collisions happen in head-ons and partial offset collisions. Cars have been built for those types of crashes for many years, but the death rates still seem to be evenly arrayed. Hmm.

  • avatar
    Manic

    I just visited Brazil for nearly 3 weeks as a tourist, also rented car from Localiza (10k km Fiat Novo Uno). So my view: OK, maybe state wants to keep possible car ownership explosion under control via high taxes and I kind of understand that, after seeing rush hour traffic in SP. Still, the roads I traveled along, around Rio, were generally mostly empty and not too bad…. Anyway these expensive but cheaply built, option free small cars they have there would be safe enough if only there would be less speeding and other dangerous behavior on the roads. I can’t really imagine what kind of mayhem would be going on if car ownership would be on a higher level. I guess problem is not in the cars but in driver education and maybe also in the idea that after young people get their first damn expensive car they feel invincible and want to show off.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Manic, thanks for the visit. Do come again. Well, you saw it firsthand and seem to agree with me. I think you made a sound evaluation, but bear in mind two things: Roads around Rio are not too bad and hardly represent an average Brazilian road and imagine those roads in vacation months, chokked full and with the same traffic behavior…

      • 0 avatar
        Manic

        I def. will be back soon and I agree with your orig assessment. Maybe it is so that during the summer things are different but still, I felt that there is room for more cars and esp. for more interesting cars, there’s no convertibles, coupes, sporty cars etc. Automotive landscape seems really strange in this regard….
        PS.People were telling me that there’s zero tolerance policy for drunk driving from Nov. of last year, is this only regional thing?

  • avatar
    nomandamarinero

    Oh Marcello either you are too naive or too nationalistic about brazilian automotive industry, you forgot to mention than in the renault sandero crash test made by Latinncap the structural integrity was much worse of the equivalent dacia sandero made in Europe, and why was that? Because of the lack of weld points and structural bracing, I strongly sugest to everyone interested in the topic of the death traps we have to live with in the Mercosur to google Latinncap

    • 0 avatar
      Dimwit

      OTOH, VW Golfs are exported to NA. Have been for years. It would seem to be really stupid to build a lesser constructed vehicle for the domestic market. I can’t imagine how you would do it. Sure, less options and even some niceties like insulation and things like braces instead of struts but different steels or less welds would be impossible to accept.

      • 0 avatar
        Manic

        VW Golfs from Brazil are imported to NA? Are you sure, current Golf in Brazil is Golf IV with ugly facelift.

        • 0 avatar
          Dimwit

          AFAIK they are still are. There’s no other Golf line that I know of in NA. Mexico makes the Jettas. Chattanooga makes the Passat.

          I don’t know where the MkVII’s will be made. Wolfsburg for sure. It’s the new MBQ platform and that’s going to change a lot of the assembly plants, I’m sure.

          • 0 avatar
            Manic

            IIRC buyng a Golf (vs. Jetta) is kinda main thing for NA VW fans exactly because Golfs are made in Europe, probably even in Fatherland. Jettas are made in Mexico. I’m quite sure NA Golfs are not Brazilian.

    • 0 avatar

      hey nomandarim, thanks for reading and for the counterpoint. If you’ve read some of my articles and posts on this site you’ll notice that i can hardly be called nationalist.

      That said, some of the results of latin cap are contraverted to say the least. The industry has denounced the results loudly and i’m not sure what to make of it. Some and not just in Brazil, say results in this kind of test can be ‘gamed’ like mileage tests…this is not to say that crash tests have not helped the industry develop. All i know is that around yen yrs ago the leading car mag in Brazil took the most sold cars to be crash tested in the US and the results were disastrous. This time around they were bad but not death trap bad. The people i spoke to said were the cars equipped with airbags the results would’ve been different.

      I think it’s a work in progress.

      • 0 avatar
        nomandamarinero

        I’m not saying that cars arent robust, I have a Mk6 Fiesta made in Brazil (wich shares its platform with the first gen Ecosport) and the car is very robust suspension wise, but It has 0 safety equipment, only 4 seatbelts and headrests, interior materials are very flimsy and cheap looking, and has an engine that uses fuel like a v6 in spite of being 4 cyl 1.6. And even tough it sort of looks like the car that was sold in Europe everything you don’t see in the car is diferent and so is the basic structure.
        Didn’t a few years ago a magazine in Brazil put side by side two vw fox made there, one for the domestic (and mercosur) market and one made there but sold in Europe, they where totally diferent even structural wise, but made by the same people in the same factorie

        • 0 avatar

          good morning. Yes I remember that report and i believe it was written due to the fact the brazilian fox was cutting off people’s fingers. Iirc what the mag showed, and called structural, would nit be what an engineer would call structural. The differences were in the finishing and active safety systems, but nit the car’s structure.

          The Fiesta is different though. Much like the Brazilian Fiat Idea, it’sjust the same looking shell built on an older platform than the European car. And engines have always been different. Direct injection is not used yet on most cars here ’cause of the (lack of) quality of Brazilian gasoline.

        • 0 avatar
          solracer

          The 1.6 liter engine in my Mexican-built 2011 Fiesta was made in Brazil and gets excellent mileage. Is you car the same one or are you using British numbering that considers the current Fiesta a MK7 rather than the MK6 the rest of the world calls it? (Since the British had a minor refresh a few years ago they count as a new model even though it was not).

          • 0 avatar

            The Fiesta we’re talking about is the previous gen Fiesta, now called Fiesta Rocam to differentiate it from the new Fiesta you drive. The Fiesta we’re talking about gets a 1.6 8v or 1.0 Zetec Rocam engine. Yours has a Sygma 1.6 16v. The new Fiesta is available in Brazil and other Mercorsur countries, imported from Mexico, with the Brazilian built engine, but at least in Brazil the engine doesn’t get the “sophisticated” add-ons such as variable vlave timing the Fiestas sold in North America get. Ford Brasil has just begun producing the new Fiesta locally (no more Mexican imports in Brazil), the one with the Aston Martin mouth, but the old Fiesta Rocam will live on for the foreseeable future.

        • 0 avatar
          solracer

          Ok, I see now that you actually have a Mk5 Fiesta, not a Mk6 at least numbered from a European perspective. that was confusing me.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Fiesta

          • 0 avatar
            nomandamarinero

            yes, it’s exactly like Marcello said, in the local forums it’s referenced like Mk6 but you are right, it’s a mk5, they count the mk4 facelifit like a new gen

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    “our man Marcelo de Vasconcellos is currently in exams right now”

    G’day Marcelo, that’s good to hear, can I ask you what are you studying?

    Don’t have much time to go through this ATM (I myself have assignments to be done). I remember cars in LATAM needed actually more weld spots or otherwise would fall apart.

    • 0 avatar

      hey Athos. I’m trying to put my law degree into government service.

      As to the welding nothing like hearing from men who’ve worked in the trenches! If nothing else Brazilian cars are more robust, which is not saying they’re safer. Number of welds has little to do with safety in modern car construction.

  • avatar
    Ooshley

    “Brazil’s iron ore is a sought after commodity on the world market as well (especially in places like Australia and Brazil)”

    What? Australia is Brazil’s chief competitor in the iron ore export market. Both chasing Chinese business.

    • 0 avatar

      true and the Brazilian ore, known as itabirite, has to be mixed into the Australian ore to get good steel, or I’ve been told thusly…

      Actually not only does Australia procure ore in Brazil you also take engineers. I know at least ten guys who’ve moved there to work in Australian companies. Most of them love Oz and don’t plan on coming back.

      • 0 avatar
        Ooshley

        I’m no metallurgist but I guess if the differing ore types have complimentary trace element amounts for steel making it’d make sense to “blend” them.

        I’ve no idea what the pay in Brazil is like but it is stupid high and out of control over here so I imagine that keeps them around.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    The comments for this article and exemplary: knowledgable and polite.

    —————-

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Brazilian cars equals poor quality steel? Funny, the new Chevrolet Spin here is praised for apparently made of thicker, more solid metal than its Japanese competition. Though it’s actually built here, so not sure if it’s specced differently than a Brazilian one.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey MrWhopee! An auto engineer could explain better, but thickness of steel is one of those things that untrained eyes (including journalists) tend to appraise positively. Sometimes, less thick steel is used ’cause it’s a better quality one, sometimes just because it’s flimsy. You can never know for sure.

      BTW, what engine are they using in Indonesia. Here they use an older than the hills 1.8. However, the car is surprising everyone by its strong sales. I think it has already conquered more than 40% of its specific segment. How’s it doing there? Have you driven it?

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        Hi Marcello! No, I haven’t driven it. It’s being marketed quite aggressively here (with shows in lots of malls and other events), though I haven’t yet to see one on the street. Here they use a 1.2l and a 1.5l ecotec engine. Not sure how the 1.2l version would work in a car designed in its home market for a 1.8l engine… There’s also a 1.3l multijet diesel version, which none of its competitor have. The diesel’s garnered quite a bit of interest, especially since diesel will soon be cheaper than regular gasoline.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    When I hear “Brazil” I think (besides beautiful women!): cars powered by alcohol and gee, wish I could buy one of their cool VW transporters!

  • avatar
    LDMAN1

    “Fiats are sent back to Italy….” The only model that I am aware of could be the Strada which is poor sell in Europe. Most Brazilian cars use ethanol (Gasolina in Brazil) and need to be re-mapped (expensive)to be used with petrol. EU Fiat mainly use diesel engines which are not mainstream on Brazilian models. Brazilian Fiats used to be exported to North Africa 10 years ago but that stopped when the Real became over valued.
    I am not even sure that Brazilian Fiats comply with EU regulations. The main source for “cheap” cars is Turkey (TOFAS) for Fiat.

    • 0 avatar

      true nowadays. That however doesn’t mean they can’t. Over different moments in time the Pallo family, the Uno family have been sold in Italy, as VWs have been sold in the US. The reason they are sent elsewhere nowadays is exactly what commenter leshna said above. One day I had a meeting with a Fiat suit and I asked him exactly that question. I questioned him about the fact that Brazilian cars were exported in so low numbers, wasn’t that proof positive of the backwardness and loss of competitiveness of the local industry? He looked me in the eye and said that the way the auto industry was structured in Brazil, exports meant the home market was in crisis. He explained that it cost money to export, there was no need as every car built was sold. I countered that if they exported they’d earn dollars. He said that it wasn’t necessary margins in this country off set any potential gain.

      So, it’s not that they can’t export, it’sthatthey won’t as they don’t need to.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Great counter point, Derek and Marcelo. Great read. You’ll be getting Brazil spec 2014 Fiesta’s from Cuautitlan fairly soon!

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    I don’t even think about the “safety” of modern cars because, to paraphrase Morpheus, “What is Safe? How do you define Safe?”

    Safety is seemingly held to be the highest goal one can aspire to, but no one knows what it is. The situation is very much like that famous quote about pornography: “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” Or rather, “I can’t tell you what it is, but I can tell you what it isn’t.”

    I believe that the modern popular concept of safety is purposefully left undefined by those who are its most fervent, vocal advocates.

    What people don’t seem to understand is that safety is an emotional, relative, and highly subjective concept. It isn’t definable with hard lines and edges. For example, yes, I’m up on the roof without a fall harness, but no one’s shooting at me.

    Safety advocates are highly disingenuous; they don’t care about safety any more than I do, but they use safety as a tool to advance their own quest to aggrandize themselves illegitimately. If we, as a society, were to draw a line and say “all that is on this side of the line is safe, and all on that side is not safe,” the safety advocates could not use safety to their advantage by making the word mean whatever they want it to mean.

    They promote the idea that we can and should eliminate all risk to fearful parents, who, whipped into a frothing foam of anxiety, vote for and donate money to those who propose to keep their children safe, whatever that means and no matter the cost.

    Robert Heinlein described the way modern law treats people in the name of Safety and The Children as “like saying grown men must live on skim milk because the baby can’t have steak.”

    Brazilian cars are “unsafe” only by the insane, pants-shitting, bed-wetting What If standards of the First World, and we of the First World have absolutely no perspective.

  • avatar
    nomandamarinero

    looks like a lot of people in Brazil doesn’t believe what the industry asociation says: http://www.noticiasautomotivas.com.br/leitor-rebate-a-nota-da-anfavea-sobre-os-carros-nacionais/

  • avatar
    sheppardnias

    I am an Englishman that just moved to Brasil and this is my take on things here.

    Generally standards on cars here is terrible and that includes safety. The cars are expensive, poorly built and poorly maintained. The car industry makes money hand over fist and does not care. If they loose a customer to a brand then 2 more Brasilians appear to buy their first new car. Cars, clothes and jewelry are used to show wealth. People will show off in anything that moves before going back to what may be little more than a slum. The wealthier show off with imported cars but again they like to show their wealth.

    Cars here have been safety tested and shown to be dangerous. the Nissan March and the Nissan Micra comparison is good. They look the same but one is safe the other dangerous, very dangerous.

    In Europe i would never buy Fiat. Here I would and have. Why? Simple. In Europe the cars are often poorly built and the dealers have bad reputations. In Brasil its the same. However VW here just exploit people. The cars are expensive, poorly built and the dealers rude.

    With the VW Fox that was joint developed for Europe. Yes it crash tests well but here its double the price of Europe, nearer 3 times the price actually. In terms of safety though its a million miles away. They didn’t fit air bags or ABS as standard until forced (In europe it had them). Here the seats are poorer quality and in the past they had a faulty design on the rear seat that I am told led to fingers being amputated. When discovered they replaced the seats in Europe and changed the design. Here they carried on with the old design. Why… Because they could. Without Brasil and South America Fiat and VW would have had major problems in Europe. They make the money here and remove it from the country. Brasilians know they are being exploited but can do nothing about it. When cheap cars come to the country they are taxed highly and then quotas imposed. If you dont build the car here you can’t sell freely´. If you build here then you have to be in the club and act in the same way that Fiat, VW and GM do. Build cheap, build basic and make huge profits. OK some some cars test well but here they are luxury cars. To me a Corolla is obsolete and used and driven by taxi drivers but here its a car to dream about owning.

    Changing this will take generations and strong legislation. It wont happen because the industry has too much power and wealth. Corruption rules here.


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  • Jack Baruth, United States
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