What is the Role for Brazil in the New Automotive Industry? Threats and opportunities in a changing future for the car and its industry

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2011)


The automotive industry invented the car and the assembly line. This industry is one of the most important forces that shaped the 20th century. Work organization, mobility, logistics, the use of land, urban landscape, pollution, fossil energy in large scale, are just some of the elements this industry produced.
During the first decade of the 21st century, this industry is very much under scrutiny and stress. It has been attacked from different fronts: the air pollution is one of these fronts. The electric / hybrid car is considered by some analysts as an answer to this front but this is far from solving the problem. The sustainability issue, that was taken by the economy as a new form of value creation, alongside with social outcry, demands other initiatives: much more recycling, less congestion in urban large and medium centers, less urban impacts (deaths caused by traffic, less space for cars, etc). New materials and new forms of energy will also deeply affect technology in the industry.

Alongside the technological and social fronts, the last 20 years on the 20th century showed the surge of new strong players in the industry: first Korean, then Indian and Chinese companies are occupying strong market shares, mainly in new emerging economies.
There is a new paradigm, mixing technology and socially acceptable ways of mobility that is being developed. New entrants are acquiring capabilities that were not needed before, and new consumers demand products that must be developed from different design principles.

What and how this roughly described panorama affects the Brazilian Automotive Industry? What opportunities does it offer? Some of these issues will be presented and discussed in this paper.
a) One of the biggest markets in the world, fourth producer in 2010, Brazil does not have a Brazilian private corporation in the business of automobile production. Decisions are made in headquarters outside the country. The location of headquarters is not merely a geographical matter. Headquarters tend to concentrate decisions, and they are taken in an environment that is socially, culturally and politically determined.
b) The introduction of new technologies, mainly regarding energy, but not only, will challenge investments already made in Brazil. A scenario of old technology left in mass production countries, for cheap products, cannot be discarded for the next 20 years or so. The absence of a corporative decision center can make a lot of difference in this case.
c) In other hand, opportunities also may arise: is there space for the creation of a Brazilian owned assembler that would invest in a small electric (and maybe cheap) car? How could Brazil take advantage for being a big ethanol producer in an innovative engine design?

The automobile industry will certainly be reshaped. The way cars are designed, produced and used, and the way they impact society, will change profoundly in the next years. A mature industry is transforming radically, and the good news are that there are different possibilities and different entry doors for the future. Clean and effective mobility is a demand that can be fulfilled in different ways. The crisis of the old paradigm opens new possibilities, but requires solutions far from restricted to the technological or manufacturing spheres.

What are the possible scenarios for the near future, and what must be the agenda for Brazilian government and private investors? The proposed paper will build and discuss these scenarios, producing a reflection about different possibilities and answers Brazilian industry could – and must – offer and develop in order to gain advantage in a turning point moment for the industry.

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