In July 1987, Volkswagen and Ford’s Brazilian and Argentinian divisions created a joint-venture company, AutoLatina. The ownership was split 51% to 49% in Volkswagen’s favour. Volkswagen would manage AutoLatina’s passenger car operation while Ford looked after the commercial vehicles business. Autolatina was established in an attempt to defend both companies’ market share in what was a distressed and shrinking market.
The average shelf life of a newly introduced car before it is withdrawn and replaced by a new model has steadily shrunk over recent decades. Whether this is due to the exponential speed at which technology is now developing or simply marketing-driven is a matter of debate, but in a number of cases the cessation of production in its country of origin does not necessarily mean that the car’s production life is over, many car lines continuing to thrive elsewhere around the globe.
There are several well known cases but equally some that have continued their career in relative obscurity. The ubiquitous Volkswagen Beetle will probably jump to mind for many because it was in production for close to 70 years. However, if we Continue reading “Stayin’ Alive (Part 1)”
During the 1960s, Fiat basked in the glory of good times – the Turinese giant had a firm grip on the domestic market and elsewhere in Europe enjoyed considerable popularity. North America was proving to be trickier than expected, but in South
America, Fiat achieved good sales figures. A pleasant and often eye-pleasing by-product of Fiat’s booming business was the appearance of many special-bodied coupé and convertible variants usually designed and built by Italian coachbuilders like Pininfarina, Moretti, Bertone and Vignale to name a few. Continue reading “Southern Belles”
For a brief moment after its introduction at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, it seemed that Porsche’s 928 was THE car. Very much the antithesis of everything traditionally Porsche by being front engined and watercooled, the 928 was a bold move by the German manufacturer. The ingenious Weissach rear axle and the instrument binnacle that moved with the steering wheel as it was adjusted were testament of the amount of thought put into the intended, over time at least, 911 successor.
With a body composed of mostly rounded forms and compound curves the 928 also went against the stream of the vast majority of late seventies car designs. Being crowned 1978 European Car Of The Year; that title carrying considerably more marketable prestige compared to today, was icing on the cake, although the events would illustrate that the 928 would not Continue reading “Bringing Home the Dacon”
A Renault that came close to making it to market, and one that actually did. Some may prefer it to have been the other way round….
IKA Renault 40: Argentina
When Varig flight 820 crashed just a few miles from its destination of Orly airport on 11 July 1973(1) causing 123 deaths and only 11 survivors, there naturally was widespread grief among the families and relatives involved. The air disaster also derailed a promising project by Renault Argentina owing to the fact that Yvon Lavaud, the president of IKA Renault, was among the victims.
Amid high hopes, Argentina’s Zunder proved a damp squib.
A substantial percentage of the population of Argentina is of European origin- so much so that even today many Argentineans consider their country as in a way a separate one from the South American continent. Until the middle of the 20th century Argentina and its inhabitants were doing rather well economically, exporting cereals and meat worldwide. What was felt to be missing however was a domestic car make; several enterprising souls would try their luck at clearing this prestigious but tricky hurdle. The Bongiovanni brothers were among them.
As their surname suggests, Nilson and Eligio Bongiovanni were of Italian descent. After the second world war they ran a large and prosperous Chevrolet dealership in the city of Rio Cuarto, west of Buenos Aires. The implementation of protectionism measures by the government in 1952 threw a spanner in the works: among other things it meant the end of the import of foreign cars including of course, Chevrolets. This left the brothers with only repairs and maintenance as a source of income. This setback did however stimulate the Bongiovannis (both of them creative personalities with excellent engineering skills) to Continue reading “Swiped Left”
Concluding our micro-theme on Volkswagen, while continuing another one.
There is (or ought to be) a rule which states that the longer a car remains in production, the less effective facelifting exercises become – in purely aesthetic terms at least. You will have noticed that Volkswagen (of Wolfsburg) has been in receipt of no small quantum of derisive commentary upon DTW’s pages of late, most of which was largely justified. By contrast, VW do Brasil has been portrayed as the more astute, more ingenious, and more commercially adept of the pair.
Volkswagen do Brasil – Wolfsburg’s younger, nimbler and more ingenious Latin cousin repeatedly showed up its more torpid German counterpart. Here’s another example.
Volkswagen’s Heinz Heinrich Nordhoff has repeatedly and justifiably been criticised over the years for his tardiness in sanctioning a replacement to the eternal and best-selling Beetle, before sales collapsed by the tail-end of the 1960s. It was not for the want of trying however, and as far back as 1955, with the Käfer selling in still-increasing quantities, Nordhoff, realising its success alone would not sustain VW indefinitely, put in train a series of Beetle-based prototypes – some to sit alongside, others to Continue reading “Wolfsburg Samba”
Volkswagen do Brasil used its creative independence to produce a car that, had it arrived a decade earlier, might have been a very credible replacement for the Beetle.
The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the defining motor vehicles of the Twentieth Century. It remained in production for 65 years and a total of 21,529,464 were built. Although much changed over its lifetime, the distinctive profile remained largely the same, with its smoothly curved roof and bonnet, and separate front and rear wings connected by running boards. Anybody seeing a 1938 prototype parked next to a 2003 final year model would Continue reading “Reimagining a Legend”
A brave attempt at autonomy snuffed out before its time.
Large country though it is – the fifth largest in the world by area – the República Federativa do Brasil has never had a national car maker of any far-reaching market significance. Foreign makers had, and continue to have factories that produce cars in Brazil of course: Volkswagen, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Fiat and Ford to name the major ones, and also exiles such as DKW, Borgward, Kaiser and Willys who with varying degrees of success sought to prolong their activities in Brazil, after the feasibility of the business case in their home countries evaporated.
At the dawn of the 1960’s, Brazilian business tycoon Nelson Fernandes attempted to finally give his country its own car. Fernandes had become wealthy building country clubs and a large hospital through a fund-raising drive targeting affluent Brazilians. One of his funders (and friends) was Luis Carlos Fagundes, a director of Willys do Brasil. Together, they hatched plans to Continue reading “A Democrat Crushed By A Dictator”
Herr Piëch, about that recent Lamborghini acquisition…. do you have a moment?
Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures, but can result in unwise decisions. Lamborghini has never been a stranger to challenging episodes- the relatively young company having changed hands several times before eventually landing on safe ground within the VW group.
In 1995, Automobili Lamborghini was owned by MegaTech, an Indonesian company with (former Lotus CEO), Michael Kimberley at the helm. MegaTech had purchased Lamborghini from Chrysler for around 40 Million (USD) the year before but was having trouble making the enterprise Continue reading “Ferdinand’s Mexican Standoff”
As we conclude our trip across South America, we do so in a small truck with a surprising powerplant. IAME’s faithful Rastrojero.
Argentina’s Peron-initiated IAME (Industrias Aeronáuticas y Mecánicas del Estado) technology and manufacturing vehicle, turned out some weird and less than wonderful machinery in its 38 year existence; from small Goliath-like front wheel drive cars with highly unconventional split-twin two stroke engines, to a sports car with a 2.5 litre air-cooled modular V8. Yet IAME’s most successful and enduring product was the Rastrojero, a light truck truly down to earth in its concept and engineering. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Argentinian Soul, Hanseatic Heart”
Driven to Write examines a missing link from Brazil.
1962 Studebaker Avanti
1964 Brasinca Uirapuru
The earlier years of South America’s motor industry were influenced both by its relative geographical closeness to North America and its cultural closeness to Europe. But this influence might have gone both ways. When I first saw the 1962 Studebaker Avanti, in my trusty edition of The Observer’s Book of Automobiles, I was greatly struck. A really novel shape. When I first saw the Jensen Interceptor, in The Autocar in its 1966 Motor Show run-up, I was greatly impressed. A really novel shape. It was only after a while that I realised that the earlier, Loewy Studio designed car might have influenced the Touring styled one from West Bromwich. But, unknown to me at the time, there was a third car, the missing link, the 1964 Brazilian built Brasinca 4200 GT Uirapuru. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Variants on a Theme”
Today, DTW takes a stroll (or should that be Troll?) through the Pantanal.
DTW, thankfully, has no place for the pernicious curse known as ‘clickbait’, but the Troller Pantanal would richly deserve its place in “What the 20 most unsuccessful light commercial vehicles you never realised were gay look like now will make your jaw drop”, if ever such a gallery of shame were assembled. The subject of our tale of misadventure is Brazilian 4×4 vehicle manufacturer Troller Veículos Especiais S/A, founded in 1995 in Horizonte, Ceará Province. Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – The Troller Pantanal – Victim Of Circumstance”
A Brazilian beauty comes under the DTW microscope.
Controlled markets create their own phenomena, and the autarky imposed by the Brazilian government from early 1976, when all car imports were effectively forbidden, resulted in the emergence of a small scale luxury car industry whose high ambitions were often thwarted by economic and technical reality.
For a few years Citroen produced the CX in Arica, Chile.
I saw this one in Sweden: nearly all GTi CXs that I see are like this: immobile and decaying. Owners seem paralysed between scrapping and repairing.
From 1978 to 1984 Citroen delivered knocked down CX’s to Chile for assembly. There a few for sale in similar condition. Information on the Chilean version is sparse- perhaps our Chilean readers can fill in some details on engines and trim. I’d guess the range was narrower on options such as colour, trim and motors. Or was it? I must say how appealing the idea is of a Prestige negotiating dramatic Andean scenery.
While it might be culturally, and indeed physically a long way from the rest of South-America, the Falklands are part of the continent. What do they drive?
Outside of Port Stanley, the capital, most of the roads are gravelled and are described as tracks. Furthermore, there is not a very large road network (900 km) due to the island’s low population density: 3000 people reside there. It is tempting to say that the most popular vehicles thereabouts are boats since the Falklands are made up of two large islands and about 700 smaller ones. The road network is being upgraded to Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – +(500) Land of Bikes, Quads and Boats”
I write as someone who is far from convinced of the universal wonders of the Free Market, yet I tend to the conviction that state-owned car makers are a bad idea.
I think that’s because I can’t help but regard most cars as rather frivolous things, so I base my prejudice on the feeling that I wouldn’t want to be governed by an organisation that wastes even part of their energies thinking about cars, except in legislating their use.
This prejudice soon falls apart. True, most of the cars built for a captive market in the old Communist states of Eastern Europe were disappointing at best, but Tatras were glorious things. The nationalised British Leyland was a reasonably cack-handed enterprise, with sparks of cleverness, but it only got nationalised due to the uselessness of its private management. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Parallel States of Evolution”
This is a micropost. Chevrolet have a huge range in Uruguay. This is what is looks like when seen from space:
The Chevrolet Celta Mk1 (see below) was based on the Corsa B, on sale from 2000. It seems to have stopped production. In 2006 Chevrolet revised the car but it still seems to have its roots in the Corsa B. The Onix is a partial replacement. The giveaway is the split A-pillar: the front window frame is half of the A-pillar, just like the Corsa B (1993-2000). GM have done really well out of the Corsa and indeed Opel. I notice a lot of what they sell around the world has its roots in Rüsselsheim. There is no way they are shutting down Opel and there is no way Opel actually makes a loss. Its an accounting wheeze. Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – Chevrolet in Uruguay”
Uruguay is the second smallest state in South-America. Being right next door to Brazil, it’s natural enough one can buy Fiats there.
There are two South American specials (if I can be so Eurocentric) in the Uruguayan range. One is the Uno and the other is the Palio Adventure. Looking at the Uno we find a vehicle that evokes the Panda but isn’t a Panda. Fiat Brazil came up with this one and Fiat Centro Stile developed the appearance. Note the asymmetric grille. It’s Type 327 for Fiat anoraks. The underpinnings are from the Fiat Palio, making it something of a middle point between the Panda and Palio. Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – Fiat in Uruguay”
Before we go any further, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind readers that genuine Panama hats are made in Ecuador.
And that country is the topic of today’s investigation. The Republic of Ecuador lies on the north-west coast of South-America. Its capital is Quito but the largest city is Guayaquil. About 16 million people live in the country. They drive on the right (where possible) and the economy is dependent on commodities. Vehicle sales were down 30% last year (2015). That’s a big blow for Chevrolet who hold about 50% of the market.
You will have gathered that I am a firm believer in rules and formality, so it is with the greatest reluctance that I agreed to break my own rule about Theme titles. Our new theme originally consisted of two words in English, albeit hyphenated in a bogus effort at expediency. However, such was the outcry from our demanding readership that it was changed to the Spanish language name of the continent which is, fortunately, a single word.
Whatever the case, such is the depth and scope of the topic that I felt it necessary to find a way around my rule. South America is, quite obviously, a continent of car enthusiasts. Thirteen Formula 1 Championships alone have been won by South American drivers. Five countries have motor industries, and Brazil is the seventh largest manufacturer in the World. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Introduction”