The prolific and expansive educational power of the country's auto-industry from the early 1960s onward did much to help provide the foundations for what became an ever more diverse transportation-based engineering homeland.
The commercial prosperity and intellectually-absorbed propulsion of those co-opted (notionally 'indigenous') foreign trucks, buses and cars provided the roots for new domestic aspirations in both transport engineering and much broader civil engineering.
The capital itself, Brasilia, was designed upon the merged inspirations of then advanced engineering; its basic road layout that of a plan-view of a modern jet aircraft, with a long yet wide central feature (fuselage) for the bureaucratic centre (itself consisting of water-jet fountains), flanked either side by partially swept-back (winged) primary road-ways. These to obviously provide high capacity flows for the influx of new vehicles being nationally built.
The idea was to entrance from the air both the migrating government staff from the coastal cities and to provide the picture of futurism for the foreign visitor. The idea was to evoke awe at the apparent highly totemic and highly efficient modernism, a true 'Metropolis' itself appearing to offering seamless transportation throughout.
[NB it must be recognised that Brasilia itself became later 'sullied' by the emergence of unplanned, squalid, dormitory satellite towns that housed the much needed but 'invisible' low-wage commuter service workers].
Nonetheless, that ideological planning so well crystallised in 'clean-sheet' Brasilia at its formation, would serve as the template for high ideals with regards to the expansion of the mutually assistive domestically (and foreign) financed expansion of the auto-sector.
7. Indigenous Development - Strategic and Value-Added
The commodities, agricultural and low-value export trade basis of the national economy would itself serve the strategic needs of the nation and provide for the 'value-added' ambition of commerce.
One of the obvious high agenda requirements was country-wide public and en-mass private mobility.
And thus throughout modern times the bus and truck segments would be the prime targets for successive generational waves of low-risk entrepreneurial financing.
The Bus and Truck Segment -
Previously much was explained about the rise and fall of government backed 'FNM' (Fabrica Nacional de Motores) which itself manufactured a massive 'national fleet' of Isotta-Frashini and Alfa-Romeo licenced heavy trucks between the mid 1950s and early 1970s.
FNM's impact was enormous in obvious commercial terms and arguably over-shadowed what at the time was the new beginnings of a substantial national bus, truck and coach body-building sectior.
Invariably, as was seen prior to WW2, the domestically made bodies would be married to foreign chassis-cab expertise.
Thus, just as with cars, it was the foreign provision of the fundamental 'rolling chassis' technology that allowed domestic production of the vehicle's shell and interior to flourish. It could be said that the activities of Brazilian bus sector was the impetus and template for previously seen Gurgel SA regards body-on-chassis indigenous cars and vans.
Thus it would be the truck-makers of Europe, America and Japan who would either set-up dedicated Brazilian production centres, or agree the licensed local production, for the manufacture of the largely unseen but vital 'Chassis Cabs'.
The following names have come to dominate
- Ford Truck
- Volkswagen Truck and Bus
- DAF (Paccar Group)
- Mercedes-Benz Truck and Bus
- Scania (VW Group)
- MAN (VW Group)
- Volvo Truck and Bus
Interestingly, the historic strength of advanced Western HGV-makers becoming somewhat eroded by two factors:
- The perceived shift for indigenous producers - led by Agrale SA – to “package engineer” their own chassis-cabs from domestically-made and foreign-made component sets (eg Mitsubishi-Fuso / Toyota-Hino).
- The arrival of fully built-up Chinese truck imports (eg Metro-Shacman SA)
This understood, we can now view the historical and modern eras of Brazilian Bus and Coach Body Construction. The prime domestic and 'foreign transplant' participants being:
Domestic Body-Builders -
1. Caio Induscar
6. Irizar (Spanish owned)
Domestic Chassis-Cab Producers -
Package Integrators -
Caio Induscar SA -
[HQ: Sao Paulo / Botucatu, Sao Paulo State].
Formed in 1946, the company named CAIO was created as one of a three-pronged government mandated commercial effort to mobilise Brazilians.
[NB The other ventures being Busscar and Marcopolo, see below. These both invariably relied on pre-WW2 Ford, GM, Dodge and other branded American and European truck platforms].
Historically beyond obvious major influence in its home country, have been exports to various EM nations including: South Africa, Angola, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Lebanon, Nigeria, Turkey, Dominican Republic, Tahiti and Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2001 CAIO was sold to the transportation group Induscar Group for build and operate integration purposes with a focus on streamlining the vertical value-chain.
And in 2007 the company formed Caio North America to produce finished vehicles named G3400/G3600 on the (Daimler-owned) Freightliner cab-chassis for US clients.
As proudly illustrated on its website, Caio Induscar reached its 70th anniversary this year, and is the longest-lived of Brazil's bus-builders.
The most recently delivered contract has been to the state of Belem in northern Brazil, wherein a fleet of articulated vehicles offer what appears best-in-class product attributes with WiFi included along with various solutions for the aged and less-able bodied.
Busscar SA -
[HQ: Joinville, Santa Caterina State]
The company was, as stated, also established 1946 and was operational, with municipal and commercial build-orders right up until 2012.
However unlike its two peers, it originated as a carpentry firm by the two Neilson brothers (of Swedish descent) with focus on house-building items. Soon however the firm diversified into the re-building of older buses and truck bodies, initially continuing to obviously utilise old carriage-making methods with cheap and easily worked wooden body frames and seating and thin-section wooden skin panels.
However, under President Kubitschek's 1950s Plan for fast economic growth, it was quickly recognised that the vehicles would need to become primarily metal for durability and in-service longevity.
The market demand of the era set a firm basis beneath the firm and allowed for product improvement and range expansion, with important innovation and/or landmark products offered in 1961, 1987 and 1998.
The financial potential of Busscar Onibus (formerly 'Carrocerias Nielson') drew the attraction of private equity players, and eventually the firm was majority sold after the sudden death of the then family CEO.
However whilst international expansion was indeed successful at first, it was financed in an all too typical PE manner of heavy debt exposure. The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 saw the order book collapse, and thus the corporate notes and rolling-debt agreements could not be serviced, leading to financial ruination.
[NB the company is the focus of a 2016 academic paper from Sao Paulo and Porto (Portugal) universities regards the management of international expansion under family and non-family control, indicating that Busscar's over-extended ambitions and ultimate bankruptcy under transitioned non-family control would have been avoided if the descendants of the founders had maintained a typically 'Swedish' and 'Family' conservative approach].
This unfortunate ending though should not over-shadow the immense success and national impact that the firm enjoyed during its long heyday, producing a broad array of buses, electrically propelled 'pantagraph' trolley-buses and coaches.
Marcopolo S.A. -
[HQ: Caxias do Sul, Rio Grande State].
Founded in 1949 by eight partners and fifteen employees, the firm's original name was Nicola and Cia Ltda, As seen with CAIO previously, up until 1949 buses were bodies in wood, but Marcopolo dedicated itself to all steel (and aluminium) manufacture from 1950 onwards. An early strong order book required a shift to another larger site in the Plateau District.
Unsurprisingly there was much American influence and the early vehicles had a very similar styling with corrugated body-sides and basic 'brightware' as tropes of the modern, whether on GM or predominantly Mercedes chassis. The name became Carrocerias Nicole SA and in 1961 the first export contract was signed for Uruguay. It was in this decade that the SWB midi-size joined the full-sized vehicle to serve the suburbs, smaller towns and rural locations with dirt-track roads.
By 1969 some of its leisure and tourist vehicles had become on par with those in the USA and better than many in Europe. The watershed 'Marcopolo II' was produced and offered a transformable cabin between seating and bedding, in the style of the trans-continental rail carriages of Europe and the best coach-services in the USA. Of such impact, the company adopted the name in 1971 as its official title. A second factory site was created in1981 at 'Ana Rech' and by the mid 1980s a (what was then) 'full-line' of dedicated vehicles was on offer. And to retain as broad a domestic and international market reach as possible, the firm continued to re-body and build 'anew' upon the technically older yet still very capable 'recycled' vehicle chassis (such as the ubiquitous Mercedes LK).
The 1990s saw model-line expansion and pertinently a dedicated Marcopolo School opened for the instruction of new drivers and additionally (to a smaller extent) the 'bringing-on' of younger technicians, staff and managers in the locality. Production of its 100,000 vehicle, undoubtedly deliberately scheduled as the top of the range double-deck 'Paradiso' Tourist Coach The late 1990s saw delivery to the Brasilia BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) network.
The 2000s saw technical and feature update of the model range, the company was recognised for its national and international marketing ambitions and success, and delivery of the Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro and Racife BRT Systems vehicles. The 2010s saw delivery of similar dedicated-roadway 'bendy-buses' to the Torino e Viale BRT system in Belo Horizonte.
The firm well recognises the importance of its historical achievements, and indeed those persons who helped to obtain them. Hence, a very respectable archive of material is today dedicated to the memory of Valter Gomez Pinto, who himself directed efforts per the success of the firm on behalf of all stakeholders. “Bravo” to the present Board for highlighting Sinhor Pinto.
Neobus S.A. -
[HQ: Caxias do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul]
The company came into existence in 1999, the strategic aim of the parent company to have Neobus initially dedicated to serving both South and North American continents.
As regards Brazil and intentions for broader LatAm and elsewhere, to differentiate itself one of Neobus' star products is the “Mega-BRT”. Using either a VW or Daimler base as a 'traction-head' it is one of the longest 'bendy-buses' in the world. The triple-section, double-pivot articulation provides a truly snake-like appearance and function so as to maximise its carrying capacity and aid mobility. Its obvious aim to fulfil the high-capacity demands of many EM 'Mega-Cities' and the new generation of dedicated 'BRT' roadways.
As regards North America, in 2012 a JV was formed with the US chassis-cab producer Navistar, the new enterprise named NeoStar. This accords with the obvious strategy of targeting federal, state and municipal spend on expanded public infrastructure – what with the probable plateauing of car ownership and rise of the 'sharing economy'.
Critically the establishment of such a satellite operation in the US also allows for Neobus to in the long-term create additional agreements with the other chassis-cab producers who themselves operate on both northern and southern continents.
This provides for far better economies of scale and so cost savings when both business units (NA and SA) simultaneously order similar or even divergent platforms. If indeed feasible series-produced chassis-cab costs could even be possibly calculated based upon the value of shared internal engineering modules, especially important in this high electronics age, thus dissecting the margins of suppliers, as opposed to the conventional finished view of finished powered-chassis.
Mascarello S.A. -
[HQ; Cascaval, Parana State].
The firm's origins stems back to 1957 when three-sister companies within the land and agricultural sectors formed the Mascerallo Group.
Mascerallo Carrocerias de Onibus was founded in 2003 by the portion of group situated in Paraná, given its historic need to transport staff and the high potential of increased populational mobility across Brazil, with recognition that such 21st century mass-transit needed to be innovative.
As to whether the firms products are indeed advanced compared to peers is debatable, but nontheless it utilised conventional know-how to quickly create a full range of buses, from six-wheel full-sized to mini and across all user types. Morerover, (as with its competitors) it offers a Special Vehicles section by which specifically detailed or high customisation requirements can be met.
Within the 13 years of existence the firm has taken over Comil SA and today offers 5 types of Coach, 3 sizes of Urban Bus, 1 type of midi-sized Bus, 2 types of mini-sized Bus and 2 types of micro-sized Bus.
Export orders have been gained across the whole of Central and South America and across much of Western and Eastern Africa, demonstrating its commitment to EM nations as a prime client base.
It Service offering has been expanded to provide conventional after-care, but this a specific interest has been taken to ensure the availability of parts via a parts-network, given the likelihood that those ordering from less developed nations will invariably run their fleets for longer and more harshly (poorer roads, greater propensity to carry fully-loaded and over-loaded with passengers and likelihood of light and heavy accidents).
Thus Mascarello's business model has itself been moulded around the very real operational needs of its mixed-bag of export order customers.
[NB Mascerallo then itself illustrates Brazil's commercial role as 'bridge' between near-AM and second-phase EM nations worldwide].
Foreign Form Brazilian 'Transplants' -
[HQ: Ormaiztegi, Spain]
This company is a leading light in Spain's global commercialism, with 'transplant' factories in: Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Morocco, India and China, with a best-year annual output of approximately 3,000 units.
Its Brazilian operation is located in Botucatu (like Caio Induscar) opened in the early 2000s.
This site was undoubtedly chosen because of Caio Induscar's parallel existence, any municipal support (tax breaks and incentives) and the long-time existence of Neiva SA (an aircraft company swallowed into the Embrear Group. (Embraer obviously additionally seeks to gain from a skills-transfer of the locally grown 'fit-out' capabilities from Bus to Aero).
[NB It should be noted that 'layout design', component specification and labour intensive 'fit-out' of small and mid-sized aircraft are not dissimilar to coach and bus. Thus the locally grown skills from CAD operator to build technician could be transferred between Neiva and Irizar if one sector unfortunately experiences a cyclical downturn].
Botucatu has become a centre for Bus and Coach production, with undoubtedly a high potential for higher-value specialist work prior to the manually intensive production phase.
Thus Irizar will follow in the footsteps of VW, FIAT, GM and Ford by creating incrementally deepened Design, Research, Engineering and Prototyping capabilities within Botucato, with a high likelihood that as much as possible can be learned via technology transfer with the aeronautical sector, especially regards weight and rigidity for fuel-efficiency, safety-handling/accident avoidance and ride comfort, seating development and even perhaps 'automatic pilots' on uninterrupted trans-continental overland routes.
Additionally, Irizar owns two sub-companies (ie air-conditioning and ramps) as part of its own vertical integration chain, this a likely rationale for Brazil's indigenous body-builders.
Domestic Chassis-Cab Producers -
Agrale S.A. -
[HQ: Caxias do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul]
'Agrale' is a portmanteau of the full and proper name of 'Agram Tro Le' S.A, the company created in 1962 with the remit of manufacturing tractors. Since then it has become perhaps the de-facto heartland of Brazilian industry, with a span across:
- Tractors (and adapted variants)
- Chassis-Cabs (Bus and Coach)
- Off-Road Vehicles (Military and Private - various)
- Generators (Large Static to Small Mobile, and Ancilleries)
- Fork-Lift Trucks
The product span is diverse spanning agricultural, industrial and transportation, with an historical strategic remit to effectively provide for Brazilian industrial independence, that mantra since much exported elsewhere.
The corollary across such a broad vehicle portfolio is obvious, learning taken from one sector into another, whether that be durability from tractors to trucks or comfort from trucks to tractors and much beyond.
To this end Agrale SA has acted as a major contribution towards technical transmittance regards improved costs and quality.
As per Chassis-Cab production, all bus segment sizes are catered for to the Euro V level. However, all powered chassis are front engined (thus akin to the under-structure of the military trucks). This older style – compared to rear-engined large vehicles - is the generally preferred placement for operators seeking lower purchase costs who run vehicles in more demanding conditions, whether rural or mountainous, because of the better balance and traction offered when the vehicle is partially and fully loaded.
Thus it is assumed that Agrale SA is typically dedicated to such needs.
The most interesting aspect is that the company has grown to become the only Brazilian chassis-cab provider, and though seemingly 'old-fashioned' has honed product from experience to suit the further reaches of Brazil, LatAm and much of developing world beyond the biggest EM countries with indigenous truck-makers (India, China, Russia etc).
This is true of today, but it may be the case that at some point in the future that Agrale identifies an opportunity for a rear-engined chassis with tied-in service contracts made available as an entry-level basis for what might be described as lower-lifecycle cost 'BRT' schemes in various second and third tier cities across EM nations seconding to replicate (on a budget) the schemes seen in leading countries.
Domestic 'Package Integrators' -
Comil S.A. -
[HQ: Erichem, Rio Grande do Sul]
'Comil Carrocerias e Onibus' was established in 1985 when it – backed by the Corradi and Mascerello families - bought the 'fire-sale' assets of the bus producer Incasel via auction. The old model products were continued in low volumes at the original location whilst a new factory was built in the newer designated Industrial District of the city. The turning tide of an improving national economy underpinned increased success, whilst in 1991 export orders were gained to Argentina and Chile.
Comil is effectively an 'integration specialist'. It buys-in high-value module sets and component parts from dedicated foreign suppliers, whilst manufacturing in-house the lower-value components so as to have a full inventory of items by which to build a complete vehicle.
Present procurement of powertrain comes from Mitsubishi's Fuso division, which obviously points to possibilities of follow-on procurement from Toyota's Hino or Isuzu Truck so as to maintain high quality levels in core engineering systems, whilst improving in-house capabilities for other systems and parts.
2004 saw export orders to the Middle East and the start of a new line of 3-axle coaches, thus providing for a broad portfolio of alternatively sized vehicles and uses.
Today, in a typically Brazilian corporate manner, Comil espouses its CSR and Ecological consciousness which vitally underpins the image that the Brazilian government seeks to promote both at home and abroad.
In Conclusion -
Brazil well recognised the competitive advantage of its bus-building sector, which is able to span both AM and EM realms. As such in the lead-up to the Olympics and Paralympics it sought to further distinguish itself by creating and demonstrating world-class vehicles with a value proposition.
Those vehicles were seen and experienced first-hand by visiting foreign government officials, the influx of foreign tourists and business people.
Part of that grand export ambition was especially dedicated to (all too ironically) the notionally ovetly 'advanced' USA, given its far greater focus on public transport relative to re-urbanisation trends and its own tardiness in catering for the physically disadvantaged on public transport.
But the major aspect of the 'Rio Infrastructure Showcase' was to illustrate its capabilities to the plethora of “path-finding” EM countries, so that it may further raise export relations. And a prominent aspect of this strategy is the need to fulfil the public and private mass-tyransit needs of the world's emergent Mega-Cities: the 'network nodal' city centres, expanding suburbs and rural connections.
Thus Brazil championed and “highly articulated” the snake-inspired “Mega-BRT” system, which when derived from good, well planned and executed road and infrastructure planning allows for the speedy movement of millions of people per day.
To this extent it should be reasoned that projects such as the original 1960s Brasilia and the 2000s “Mega-BRT” have set the template for the 'long-view' planning of many EM nations.
As necessary, the Brazilian body-builders/retailers have expanded their own offering to include an ever improving 'Sales and Service' dimension, such support perhaps especially vital to overseas buyers who inevitably require experienced hand-holding for years into the future.
This spans a) technical assistance, b) maintenance advice, c) service and repair parts provision and d) dedicated product operation and technical training.
To this end, the Bus and Coach sector espouses the best of Brazilian global brand-building.