Sales, production still slumping in Brazil

SAO PAULO — Brazil's vehicle sales fell 19.7% to 92,960 units during June and 19% to 523,257 during the first half of the year, says Anfavea, Brazil's automakers association. Production also dropped 26% to 117,724 units during June and 28% to 637,444 during the first half. Jose Carlo Pinheiro Neto, president of Anfavea, says he could find no explanation for the continued slump. Things were expected to get better after the government reduced taxes on the automakers and the economy was slowly working its way back to health. Poor export sales also have plagued Brazil's automakers. Exports dropped 42.4% to 102,290 units during the first half of the year, pushing Brazil to cut its export target for the year from US$5.5 billion to US$4.5 billion. Volkswagen AG continues to sell the most vehicles, with 156,961 units during the first half, followed by Fiat SpA (140,406 units), General Motors Corp. (123,967 units) and Ford Motor Co. (36,920 units). VW sales are down 15%, Fiat 24%, GM 20% and Ford 55%.

Ford starts production

BOGOTA — Ford Motor Co. begins production of the Ford Laser at Cia. Colombiana Automotriz, which also makes Mazda Motor Corp. vehicles. Ford, which owns 33.4% of Mazda, plans to assemble 70 vehicles each month and will sell them in the local market. The assembly is the next step in a plan to share Mazda and Ford production facilities in Colombia and Venezuela. Ford began building the Mazda B-2000 pickup truck at its plant in Valenica, Venezuela, last month. The factory will assemble 50 pickup trucks a month. The companies invested US$10 million in the production plan.

Ssangyong sales in Chile

SANTIAGO — Daewoo Motor Co. Ltd. says it will begin sales of its Ssangyong subsidiary's Korando and Musso sport/utility vehicles and one of its own passenger cars by the end of this year in Chile. Additional vehicles will be launched next year. The automaker imports about 600 cars per month and holds 6.9% of the market. Daewoo sales for the first half of 1999 totaled 3,245 units. Daewoo bought 51.98% of Ssangyong in 1997.

Brazil's truck strike ends

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Fiat SpA and Volkswagen AG are forced to stop car production after a truckers' strike prevented the delivery of raw materials to the companies' plants. The truckers blocked key cargo routes for four days. They cleared the road only after the government promises to increase road security and highway maintenance, and to suspend a planned increase on road tolls.

VW to invest in plant

SAO PAULO — Volkswagen AG will invest US$56 million in a new press for its plant in Curitiba, Brazil. The press will lessen VW's need for more expensive imported parts. The facility, which makes the VW Golf and Audi A3, currently uses about 50% local content. The Golf recently went on sale in Brazil, while the A3 is set to hit dealers by the end of the year. Within several months, VW will export its Brazilian-made Golf to other Latin American countries, including Mexico. The automaker still is considering sending the car to the U.S.