Asian automakers lead the race for electric cars in Brazil – Global Happenings
Asian companies, especially Chinese ones, are leading the process of electrification of cars in Brazil, with announcements of factories for the production of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars. The more traditional European and American groups are waiting for decisions on an industrial policy focused on decarbonization and approval from headquarters for local investments in new mobility technologies.
A global leader in the development of electrified vehicles and efficient in the production of batteries and semiconductors, China recorded, in 2022, a share of almost 30% of electrified vehicles in sales in the local market, a slice initially projected for 2025.
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With fast-growing consumption, Chinese manufacturers began to choose other countries to expand electrical technology, and Brazil entered this route. The Asians are betting on a constant increase in the market, despite the segment participating in only 2.5% of car sales and not having government subsidies for the purchase, as in other countries. In addition, there is ethanol, a “green fuel”, to reduce carbon emission rates.
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GWM (Great Wall Motor) and BYD announced investments of BRL 10 billion and BRL 3 billion, respectively, in operations in the country. The first bought the Mercedes-Benz factory in Iracemápolis (SP), and the second is about to close the acquisition of the Ford plant in Camaçari (BA), both deactivated. Chery chose neighboring Argentina and should invest R$ 2 billion to produce electric cars and batteries, according to local sources.
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Among the automakers established in Brazil for the longest time, only the Japanese Toyota and Caoa Chery produce flex-fuel hybrid models (with an electric motor that assists the main engine running on ethanol or gasoline).
“With efficient public policies, Chinese companies have promoted and concentrated their chips on battery electric vehicles and are ahead in this technological race”, says Adalberto Maluf, president of the Brazilian Association of Electric Vehicles (ABVE). “This made the country gain a large scale in production and competitiveness, and it is leading the electrification process in the world.”
According to Maluf, in countries where there are public policies for the transition, such as Mexico, the USA and some Europeans, local automakers are announcing production. In the case of Brazil, the more traditional brands must await the introduction of an industrial policy to define investments. “They will first have to scale up in their home countries.”
Maluf assesses that the Chinese, because they are at the forefront from a technological point of view and produce their own batteries and semiconductors, do not only go after markets that have incentives and public policy, but also those that do not, like Brazil. “They know that their products can even compete with combustion products”, he says.
For Henrique Antunes, director of sales and marketing at BYD, as much as traditional automakers try to delay electrification in Brazil, they will have to follow the market. “Who dictates this is the consumer and, when the offer is greater, it will make the price drop and the market gain prominence”, he says. “But we are not going to wait, because when the demand is mature, we will already have the productive conditions to meet it.”
The largest global manufacturer of electric and hybrid cars, BYD, which in 2022 sold 1.9 million units in China – almost the total Brazilian market – intends to go further and also manufacture truck and bus chassis in Brazil, operate in the processing of lithium and, in the future, even make battery cells.
The forecast is that, once the purchase of the factory in Bahia is agreed, production will start at the end of 2024 or at the beginning of 2025. “What is certain is that we are going to produce high-tech vehicles and develop a local production chain”, informs Antunes. “We want to be at the forefront of Brazilian electrification.”
With more than 50 years in Brazil, the Japanese Toyota was a pioneer in the local production of electrified vehicles, with the Corolla flex hybrids (launching in 2019) and Corolla Cross (2021). The two currently account for 10% of brand sales in the country and for 30% of the national electrified market, which totaled 49,300 units in 2022.
Stellantis, owner of the Fiat, Jeep, Citroën and Peugeot brands, imports the electric Fiat 500e and the plug-in hybrid Jeep Compass. The company is working on the development of flex-fuel hybrid technology, although a car with this option does not yet have a date for local production.
The Brazilian group Caoa also produces, with the Chinese Chery, two hybrids in Anápolis (GO), the Tiggo 5 and the Tiggo 7, and its president, Carlos Alberto de Oliveira Andrade Filho, says that there will be new products of this line at the factory in Goiás and in Jacareí (SP), which has been stopped since last year and should resume operations in 2025.
The information is from the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo.