Brazil is already used as an export platform by multinationals in the auto industry, but in recent years the country has been becoming a greater reference in research and development.
Various carmakers have established, or are installing design and engineering centers in Brazil turned to the creation of cars to be produced here and abroad, as well as prototypes that will influence the sector in coming years.
This is the case of Fiat, which established its Style Center in Brazil four years ago, the only one of the kind outside the head offices in Italy. At the 24th International Automobile Trade Show, which started yesterday, October 19, in São Paulo, the company is going to show a concept car that was entirely conceived by the Brazilian team of designers.
The vehicle is the FCC Adventure, a futuristic coupe with an off-road appearance. "The car has elements that will be used in the other models in future," said the director at the center, Peter Fassbender.
According to the director, when operations started, his department counted on only four professionals. There are currently 30. And they do not only dedicate themselves to developing prototypes.
The "Adventure" versions, vehicles with off-road appearance, of models developed in Italy, like the Idea and Doblò, were developed in Brazil. "In the future, it is possible for us to develop the cars that are going to go into production," added Fassbender.
Fiat Brazil is also investing in alternative fuels, with the release of the Siena Tetrafuel, which can run on alcohol, gasoline mixed with alcohol, pure gasoline or natural gas, and the Electric Pálio prototype, developed in partnership with Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant and Swiss company KWO.
Volkswagen is another company that is investing in the creation of cars in Brazil. The company, according to a spokesperson, has in the country 900 professionals developing products in the design and engineering areas. It is the company’s largest research center outside Germany.
Cars that were entirely developed by Volkswagen Brazil are produced in other countries, as is the case with van SpaceFox, produced in Argentina. The compact Fox car, developed in Brazil, in turn, is now even exported to the head office, in Germany.
According to a spokesperson for the company, the Brazilian subsidiary has been authorized by the head offices in Germany to develop new products due to its know-how in vehicles adapted to conditions in developing markets. An example of this is the units of the Gol mini vehicle exported to Morocco, which include two radiators to cope with the heat in the region.
In the same line, the research and development center established by General Motors Brazil is now responsible for the development of all of the brand’s medium pick-up trucks, no matter where they are produced or sold.
At the Automobile Trade Show, the company is going to show a vehicle entirely developed in Brazil, the compact sedan Prisma. Among the prototypes, the company is going to present the Prisma Y, a sports van that was also developed in Brazil based on the sedan.
Ford, in turn, installed in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia one of the five research and development centers the company has. At the International Automobile Salon, the company is going to present some of the models that have already been developed by sector professionals, like the automatic Ecosport and a prototype developed based on the Fiesta. The Brazilian unit is responsible for the development of vehicles for the whole of South America.
Peugeot is also starting to work on research and development in Brazil. The 206 Escapade van, an off-road version of the 206, has already been developed here. The French brand produces the 206 in Brazil and the 307 in Argentina, but with large volumes of Brazilian components.
But it is not only the multinationals that invest in creation. Companies with 100% Brazilian capital are also entering the market. That is the case with company TAC, from the southeastern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, which is developing jeep Stark, which means "strength" in German, previously known as Project A4.
The 4-wheel-drive jeep of futuristic lines is equipped with a Volkswagen 1.8 dual fuel engine, i.e., which operates both on gasoline and alcohol. "This is a differential in the 4-wheel-drive vehicle sector, where the vehicles are generally run on gasoline or diesel," stated the company’s administrative director, Luiz Alberto Cavalheiro.
Another example is Lobini, a company that makes sports cars and that was recently bought by businessman Antônio Ermírio de Moraes, of Votorantim group, one of the largest holdings in the country.
Constant production began in August, in the city of Cotia, in Greater São Paulo, at four units a month. Up to the end of 2007, however, the company hopes to reach the level of 10 cars produced per month.
Equipped with a 1.8 liter, 180 hp Volkswagen turbo engine, the Lobini costs 170,000 reais (US$ 80,000). The company is eyeing the foreign market, and hopes to start selling in England in the near future. "We are also focussing on Latin America. And why not also on the Middle East? There is potential," stated the company’s executive director, Renata Laczynski Goi.
Anba – www.anba.com.br