How long was I in Brazil? About five feet ten and a half
Yes, I just returned ten days ago from a trip to the largest country in Latin America. Brazil, home of samba, carnival, great coffee and wonderful racing drivers such as Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Emerson Fittipaldi. Though how they learnt to drive so fast in a country where the average speed - at least in the cities - seems to be less than five miles an hour is anyone’s guess. I was a guest of the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency and visited three cities, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and São Paulo in a whistle-stop five days.
It’s not so long ago that Brazil, along with Russia, India and China, formed part of the acronym BRIC; the automotive industry’s term for the fastest-developing markets. Then what happened? Over a four year period from 2013 to 2016 the industry fell off a cliff. Production and consumer sales dropped dramatically as the country plunged into recession. Happily, last year proved to be a turning point. The Brazilian automotive industry is set to grow substantially in 2018: by 13.2% in production (3.06m units), 11.7% in registrations (2.5m vehicles), and 5% in exports, reaching 800,000 units, according to the National Association of Vehicle Manufacturers, Anfavea.
But it’s not just the resurgence of the market which is so impressive. It’s the way that Brazilian automotive companies are espousing new technologies. At the Fiat plant in Belo Horizonte, the largest vehicle assembly plant in Latin America, I saw examples of interconnected systems, such as the Internet of Things, Additive Manufacturing and Augmented Reality, among other solutions. Today, FCA is an Industry 4.0 landmark in Latin America due to its investments in new digital technologies and its highly-qualified professionals.
At the MAN trucks plant in Resende I was introduced to (and became the first journalist to drive) the e-Delivery, the first 100% electric truck in its category that has been fully developed in Brazil. With technology tailor-made for emerging countries, the e-Delivery satisfies global technology standards: bringing state-of-art solutions such as smart systems to adjust battery demand depending on operations, and recovering power from braking. The e-Delivery has up to 200km of autonomy, depending on the vehicle's application, and will be available in 9 and 11-ton models.
It wasn’t all hi-tech, however. At the Fiat plant, when I went outside for a post-lunch cigarette, I was closely observed by a pair of Mico monkeys. Now, you won’t find that at Rolls Royce or Bentley!.
Simon Duval Smith
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