SAO PAULO – General Motors Corp.’s Brazilian subsidiary is offering to assist in the design and engineering of compact alternative-fuel cars for North America in an effort to help its U.S. parent overcome its financial crisis.

Jaime Ardila, president of GM’s Mercosur operations, which include Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, says the Brazilian experience in creating small vehicles such as the Celta, Prisma, Meriva and Montana could help with the technological development of new, more fuel-efficient models for the U.S.

"We would be able to transfer technology and even some persons in the area of engineering and design," he says. "The Brazilian subsidiary employs 1,200 engineers, and there are at least 80 Brazilian professionals working with GM in the U.S., Europe and Asia.”

Ardila’s comments come after new GM CEO Fritz Henderson admits the possibility of bankruptcy. Both Henderson and former Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner directed Brazilian operations before taking key positions in Detroit.

Ardila says GM’s Brazilian car buyers should not be concerned. "It is clear that the Brazilian division will not be included in any court-ordered reorganization plan."

Brazil is a major market for global auto makers and is Latin America’s largest economy. Vehicle sales in March jumped 36.1% from February to 271,393 units, up 16.9% compared with year-ago, making it the best March on record, according to the national dealers association, Fenabrave.

The group credits the government’s industrial product tax reduction, which has kept car prices from rising, and available consumer credit as the primary incentives that brought consumers into dealerships.

Fiat Automoveis SA led Brazil's sales in March with 42,568 units, followed by Volkswagen do Brasil Ltda. (40,251), General Motors do Brasil Ltda. (29,303) and Ford Motor Co. Brasil Ltda. (22,603).

Sales rose in the year’s first two months after the government announced in December it would extend the tax benefit to the auto industry through June. Nevertheless, auto makers have reduced production to cope with a drop in demand, laid off thousands of workers and cut investments.