Blog: The Sao Paulo show

22 Oct, 2012 6:10pm Jack Rix

Jack Rix on why the Sao Paulo Motor Show is good news for the car industry as a whole

"Brazil has long been considered a country of the future, but today proves it's very much a country of the present." When Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the VW Group, announces at Volkswagen’s preview evening that an emerging economy has emerged, the world tends to listen.

And that's precisely how we feel at the Sao Paulo Motor Show - there’s a sense of optimism and a level commitment from the big players that hasn’t been seen before here in Brazil. The fact that the Chinese economy is slowing and sales in Western Europe are looking grim has clearly added to the appeal of the Brazilian market but frankly, the figures speak for themselves.

Since 2003 the Brazilian economy has been growing steadily, it’s now the fourth largest car market in the world and by 2014 annual sales are on course for four million vehicles. By 2018, VW predicts that sales here will have grown by 48 per cent and there’s little reason to doubt it.

VW is the elder statesman of the Brazilian market - it started building cars here as far back as 1959 and is considered a home manufacturer by the Brazilian public. The Taigun ‘up! SUV’ concept was the clear star of the show and superbly designed – close up it seemed barely larger than an up!, but from a distance it had all the rugged presence of a proper off-roader.

Other manufacturers pledged their commitment to Brazil, too. The Nissan Extrem concept, the first concept made specifically for Sao Paulo, had all the aggression of a clenched fist, and with a bit of luck could point the way towards a sporty sub-Juke crossover. The Dacia Duster-based Renault DCross concept was a clear reaction to Brazilian customers wanting their car to look ‘tougher’.

Not everyone brought along a spanking new concept, but anyone who was anyone had a stand – even Aston Martin, who didn’t bother attending the Paris Motor Show last month, showed up.

Whether all this investment in Brazil will mean a raft of exciting new models for the UK, we’ll have to wait and see. What we do know is that it’s great news for the car industry as a whole.

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Despite being considered a 'home' market by OEMs such as Fiat and VW, Brazil still gets precious little respect from international OEMs. Case in point is the decision by Renault to release a rebodied look-alike version of the latest Clio on the old chassis, instead of investing to introduce the new car (much like Peugeot did with the '207' Passion, which was a rebodied 206). Brazilian car buyers are being taken for a ride by OEMs which still get away with selling old models for stupid money. Another example, Brazil was the last market in the world to still sell the Vectra, which was billed 'new' after simply having a superficial facelift every other year. Of course carmakers love Brazil, those guys will buy anything - when they should be holding out for better.

The Chevrolet Vectra is a 4 door version of the previous Astra. A good looking variant (they sold them in Ireland too as they aren't snobs about saloons).

My concern about the Sao Paulo show is every manufacturer's commitment to build more SUVs. Proper saloons seem to be a dying breed.