Friday, 27 January 2017

Micro Level Trends – Brazil's Automotive Sector – “Brazil 66”...Sixty Six Years of Economic Power Lifting (Part 4.7)

As the UK creates a new (apparently scant) Industrial Strategy 'Green Paper' regards national Research and Development, this web-log's focus provides a useful insight into similarly directed efforts of the past and present orchestrated by Brasilia.  

[NB the following two areas covered – Indigenous Sector Promotion and Indigenous Technological Research have been altered in sequence so as to provide greater continuity].

8. Indigenous Technological Research

Brazil's exposure to 19th century global capitalism and thereafter its need to become better self-sustaining throughout the 20th century under its Industrial Import Substitution policy, has meant that by default of its very size and successive political stances – internationalist learning and nationalistic self-sustainability - it has historically considered itself the technology leader within Latin America.

As seen previously in detail the need to industrialise saw much effort put into Ethanol fuel production, today a world leader in sustainable agrifuels, such advancement followed by policy-driven efforts to broaden national capabilities across an ever wider spectrum of technological disciplines which underpin economic strengths both inward and outward.

However, the determination to support new technological solutions for one's own people and with foreign export ambition has not been easy. In contrast to the success of agrifuel, as also seen with Gurgel SA, efforts to advance the low-cost construction vehicle model into a nationally and regionally scalable proposition became thwarted.

In its case, for two reasons. Firstly, directly because of the real-world performance limitations of what was perceived as an advanced technology seemingly ready to alter the very nature of 2nd and 3rd world vehicle build and use. Secondly, because the national integration of the global vehicle industry (VM and Supplier) ultimately provides not only better quality products but also allows for major FDI initiatives (factories, distribution centres, showrooms, after-sales service centres etc) which at the production hub and far beyond enormously expands local and regional economies. Those global manufacturers themselves becoming highly patriotic given the educational skills-base put into place.

As also seen, more directly attuned (than steel-based cars and heavy trucks) to the post-WW2 entrepreneurship drive and core competencies of managerial learning, enthusiasm and the availability of willing manpower has been the Bus and Coach sector.

With cyclically aligned created companies such as Marcopolo, Ciao Industries, Busscar, Mascarello and Neobus, the Brazilian body-building industry has prospered with only a few (ultimately integrated) failures over the last 70 years. Now so well recognised as beyond simply capable on the world stage that foreign marques, such as Irizar, have brought in FDI, whilst also deploying relevant developmental and build expertise.

This understood, and although indisputably – in its broadest sense - the LatAm technology leader (with examples such as the Itaipu and Belo Monte hydro-electric dams), Brazil still has a sizeable – though shrinking – 'Technology Gap' with the most progressive Western and Eastern countries.

Such a gap however looks to become ever smaller thanks to the fact that Brazil is reputed to have the 5th largest number of billionaires in the world (largely thanks to historical precedent of land ownership prevailing to broad industry and finance).

Very interestingly, the 2020s and 2030s may see possible leapfrog advances, these resulting from a shift in the mix of national Research and Development, as more and more of the private sector, with major foreign participation (perhaps even leadership), becomes increasingly merged with the public sector efforts that have been the historical paradigm.

Academia -

That paradigm has relied upon Government policy initiatives and a very closely aligned public University system to drive what have been deemed research projects vital to the national interest.

Unsurprising given the historical importance of trying to better balance Brazil's economy within the global construct and strengthen the regions within the national construct, Economics and Industrial Management has been a prime focus.

Complimenting this central pillar has been the historical insistence led by previous Military Governance, that because of historic LatAm socio-economic turmoil and possible external threat, that the nation's Defence is first and foremost. Thus much was previously done to create centres of intellectual excellence in Military Engineering and Strategy, with the recognition that this would indeed have an 'economic trickle-down' into commercial applications.

These foci led to resurgence of the few embedded establishments and creation of perhaps the best known and arguably most contributive universities: the 'FGV', the 'IME' and 'ITA'. These the initials of the Fundacao Gutelio Vargas (Economic/Mgmt) [1944], the Instituto Militar de Engenharia (Military, Civil and Other) [1792] and the Instituto Technologico de Aeronautica (Aerosapce)[1950].

Whilst viewed as primary drivers of research and development progression, these obviously exist within a plethora of other public and privately funded higher education bodies – 197 or so publicly supported - with the most prominent ten being (in 2015 ranked order):

1. USP – University of Sao Paulo
2. UFRJ – University of Rio de Janeiro
3. UFMG – Federal University of Minas Girais
4. UNICAMP – University of Campinas
5. UFRGS – Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
6. UNESP – Sao Paulo State University
7. UFSC – Federal University of Santa Caterina
8. UFPR – Federal University of Parana
9. UnB – University of Brasilia
10. UFPE – Federal University of Pernambuco

Like the former high profile three 'cornerstone' universities, the disciplines, faculties and overall curriculum of these institutions (as with many more latterly established) have expanded over the years, so as to embrace an ever broader spectrum of evolved old subjects and the introduction of newer disciplines.

Hence, whilst undoubtedly each has its own core for which it is typically recognised, instilled in their original ambitions is that Brazilian universities were to become multi-disciplinary; so as to ensure the Brazilian economy gains a broader activity base from a wider knowledge-base, and to also critically better serve the undergraduates and post-graduates of the respective regions to in turn increasingly develop those regions.

It was the Vargas and Kubitschek 'visions' of the 1940s and 1950s set the modern tone for Brazilian education and the importance of melding what were previously seen as distinctly different subjects; with their own inherent historic 'silo-effects', often seen in Europe and the USA.

Thus Brazil's places of learning were idealised as to be different, to 'cross-fertilise' so as to nurture Brazilian enterprise and industry.

One of the best known is Sao Paulo's Central University and its formation of independent yet aligned faculty departments.

The university was initially established as a specialist in Business Administration (the ESAN faculty) [est 1941 in Sao Paulo], but educational policy meant that original basis even early on was to become allied to the all important arena of Industrial Engineering (FEI) [est 1946 and reformed in 1963] which in turn was widened still as necessary to integrate an Information Technology faculty (FCI) [est 19

Centro Universitario da FEI (Faculty of Industrial Engineering) itself originated within the automotive heartland of San Bernardo de Campo as a seperate site so as to be located very close to the new major automotive factories, and thus to act as a supply feed for the next generation of staff engineers, managers and indeed Brazilian executives, who themselves were able to gain close contact with the likes of Volkswagen, Karmann, FIAT etc in their formative years.

The symbiosis of these three semi-integrated disciplines (Business, Engineering and latterly Info-Tech) crucial for the developmental growth of the industrial base of the nation. With just as important, the future integration of this triumvirate critical as Brazil itself looks forward to the commercialised age of 'the internet of things' – the shape of things to come..

But it is perhaps best known in recent years as attempting to create ever more definitive courses regards Automotive Industry Studies, with also vitally the need to create a culture of activities which enthuse the students.

To this end this section of the FEI has – even during tough budgetary periods, and with lesser facilities than top-tier international schools - obviously tried to maintain its cultural momentum. This done in both theoretic learning and practical learning.

From the early rudimentary days of basic mechanical engineering, the course has widened its automotive commercial consciousness, recognising that the sooner its students are able to think in a multi-disciplinary manner the more effective they will be in their careers in industry.

Thus, in the theoretical realm, what were many years ago narrow design-engineering projects have increasingly encompassed the greater breadth of commerce, to include as much of the automotive value chain as possible. So spanning 2-wheelers, 3-wheelers, cars, vans, trucks and buses, from early stage Marketing Research for the formation of a hypothesised new vehicle, right through the remainder of the full 'in-house' value-chain (ie Design-'Styling' to Manufacturing Production to Retailing Models to End-of-Life Disposal), with thanks the increased teaching regards the ESAn faculty and much self-teaching an approximated basic understanding regards realities of forming Business Models, Project Financing and project Budgeting.

However, it must also be understood that this exposure to the value-chain's other subject matter is for the moment still seemingly rather rudimentary; much depending upon the curriculum setter's and tutor's own professional exposure and interests.

But although deep exposure to the other conjoined disciplines is somewhat limited, the actual educational depth gained appears greater than the sum of its parts.

This is because of the students' subject enthusiasm and high familiarity with the history of the auto-industry at home and abroad, prior to even joining the course. This level of absorbed participation means that these 'hand-picked' 'chosen few' are the best of the annual intake, and that commitment is seen during their educational years. Thus even with the reality of university budget constraints affecting educational facilities and materials, it means that the educational quality (self)-gained appears higher than would be immediately imagined by Brazil's university world rankings

[NB its best being presently the University of Sao Paulo, ranked at 127th place, followed by the University of Campinas at 215 and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro at 284; these seemingly low rankings resultant from Brazil's own erratic historical economic development. But not representative of the whole, especially regards specialist corners such as Auto-Industry Studies]

Herein the very indepth past case studies of companies such as Gurgel would prove very useful, as would examples of much else, from a globally sold GM or Ford hatch-back to other well known and typically forgotten studies, such as other historical Brazilian projects (previously summised), the fateful De Lorean sports-car on the premise of Northern Irish regional development and for the effectively still-born 1980s 'AFRICAR', which saw the ideology of continental development undermined by user, socio-economic and political reality.

As regards the practical slant of course education, the FEI has maintained this as a critical aspect.

A strong original foundation in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at the practical level continues to this day, with the most high profile of many activities being participation in the Society of Automotive Engineer's 'Baja Competition'.

Inspired by the popularity of the highly professionalised California Baja races, students build and enter dirt-road/off-road racing buggies set to a specific SAE formula. The formula itself alters slightly every second year regards overall dimensions, engine capacity, etc, so providing a philosophical parallel to the changes that are ordained in top-end motorsport, such as the FIA's regulations in F1.

Just as the FIA is exposed to the broader global PESTEL agenda and has to balance the needs of fair inter-team competition with the sport's spectacle for audiences and vitally encourage a forward progression in the DNA of motorsport (so as to 'trickle-down' into the mainstream), so to a lesser extent the SAE devises changes designed primarily to broaden engineering knowledge within a diluted version of the same PESTEL backdrop.

So herein, it can be seen that Brazilian education – whilst still comparatively lacklustre regards top rankings – undoubtedly has a young student population from the burgeoning middle classes who themselves are keen to build upon the advantages that both their parents and their country afforded them over the last twenty-five years or so.

That determination of the student mass probably says much about the recent and future socio-economic propulsion of Brazil.

Furthermore – as seen with the Chinese Premier's discussion points at DAVOS 2017 – the industrial and research and development tentacles of the now very much emerged BRICs, MINTS, CIVETS, etc have become ever more inter-twined across AM and EM nations.

For Brazil and its peers much of the 60 years of learning from Western and Japanese industry and commerce has been absorbed, with only ostensibly the very latest progress in various scientific sectors, and especially IT relevant to the digital world, to be yet fully appreciated and absorbed.

Brazil, now itself well entrenched as a post-industrial, services-biased, economy appears far closer to broad AM parity than many would appreciate.

Remember after all that in many ways Brazil has historically always been technologically ahead of its BRIC peers, even if China has progressed enormously since the 1980s. Precisely because it was periodically propelled forward through effectively perminant ties with Europe and the USA and so modernisation influence.    
That history continues today relative to the urgency of mass education, the drive of the student body, and the engendered desire to match and lead technological research-work to be applied commercially and globally.

'Supercharging' Academia -

Whilst there is a growing trend regards privately run secondary schools and indeed further education centres, as with the historical precedence of most countries, education at al levels has been the responsibility of the public sector.

The national development model typically sees the societal fruits of industrialisation provided in most part by the government and central and local levels, the income gained from taxation used to bolster social amenities (from sewers to roads to a truly meaningful social welfare financial 'safety-net' to schools to leisure centres) which in turn provides greater economic efficiencies via better infrastructure and likewise a more capable and better motivated population.

[NB this stated, (as regards the 'flip-side' pertaining to many Western countries today) the administrators of countries or local indeed municipalities that over-burden the most marginalised sections of its population inevitably experience further socio-economic decline given the fragmentation and disenfranchisement effect, ultimately resulting in sociological and psychological damage].

Even with the present momentary economic contraction, Brazil obviously continues as a socio-economic expander, which even through present woes, appears well appreciated by all ages and demographics of its population

And even with the global economic pressures experienced now, those in Brasilia well understand their responsibility to best avoid long-term economic stagnation, (let alone the possibility of ongoing structural degradation, as seen in the past).

[NB This perhaps more vital than in recent times given the present tensions of a possibly less internationalist global interaction].

So as to maintain the momentum of the last three decades, and position itself ever higher up the worldwide 'value-chain' (with a retained ability for ongoing wide-span coverage) Brazil's thought-leaders previously created and nurtured a cyber-based academic forum so as to connect the geographically and disciplinary diverse research corridors of its universities.

Since 1999 'Plataforma Lattes' has been that federally operated IT search database, created to provide as much participation transparency as possible within (and increasingly beyond) Brazilian academia. Acting as a singular, easily trodden 'Main Street' for its multi-variant 'Research Roads'.

[NB It was named in tribute to Cesar Lattes the revered atomic physicist and contributor to work which gained the 1950. Arguably even more important, he was a major influence in the creation of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (established sixty-six years ago in 1951)].

Each university is responsible for keeping its database profile updated so that the plethora of research-work being undertaken at all levels (notional 'Bachelors', 'Masters' and 'PhD') across all well entrenched and newly arrived subjects. The information therein – in synopsis form - is readily accessible to all other university lecturers, students, managers and seniors.

The database connects those researching singular subjects, over-lap subjects (a major area of interest to generate close-coupled next generation advances) and indeed prosaically even different subjects (which themselves may provide direct or indirect philosophically enhanced research perspectives and areas).

The aim is to create fertile ground for:

- The ideal of 'Leap-Frog' intellectual advances
(via greater collaboration and cross-fertilisation).
- The shift from Theory to Practical application.
- Next era Commercialisation.

The obvious intent is to 'supercharge' the methods and outcomes of learning, with a prime ambition to identify the readily available and newly emergent 'white space' for prospective Pure and Applied research-work.

Resulting in more broadly spread and speedier academic development – given the pace of a much expanded academic international universe - so as to create better prospects for an ongoing academic pipeline and eventual 'spinning-out' into the external commercial world.
To date the focus appears to have been upon the actual inter-connections between different institutions and faculties, with much debate about the broad context of how to progress.

Additionally 'Plataforma Lattes' is linked to 'INPI' (the National Institute for Industrial Property) the agency which spans the legal aspects of Brazilian industry, with particular focus upon the granting of national and international protection – via registration of granted Patents – for much, including vitally that of industrial advances in methods, goods and services.

To that end INPI is the umbrella body for the safeguarding of technological and scientific advances, which themselves have been and are expected to even more so (in part) be channelled from the efforts of both universities and (as much if not more pertinently) the Research and Development functions of Brazilian located industry; whether truly indigenous or foreign-owned.

Industry and Commerce -

Although with an alternating history between the ideologies of capitalism vs socialism, Brazil has now been what is effectively a broad mixed-market economy for about three and a half decades.

That in turn has under-pinned the impetus of much improved social programmes that have provided support for the majority. Of major focus has been education, from the children of the comparatively comfortable middle-classes able to lengthen their time in higher education through to social care programmes that have provided basic home economics courses and self-improvement courses for “poor and trapped” young single mothers.

Yet such a responsibility and actions toward the betterment of its people has likewise been seen in industry, arguably to more immediate effect and per some instances for decades. The efforts of national blue-chip companies such as Marcopolo SA (and other long-lasted industrial peers far beyond in the Bus and Coach sector) has had a similarly long-lasting positive effect upon local neighbourhoods and far beyond.

[NB the industrial and wide social effect of Bus and Coach perhaps the archetype for a more interactive socially mobile society].

That post 1945 spirit of ever expanded industrialisation, social inclusion and cohesion of both homogeneous and diverse ethnicities remains in the high-conscience of company leaders, who in turn carry the mantle of the Brazilian ethos “prosperity for all”.

Though there is still much to be achieved for the mass-poor, much has obviously already been achieved to date with the broadening and deepening of its industrial and commercial activities, and the drive toward increased productivity and value-added.

The fruits of mass education and ambition are plain to see with the size of the burgeoning new lower middle-class, itself far more closely aligned to the advances and wealth effects of 'national corporatisation' than its much small predecessor group which was itself far more reliant upon being within the lower echelons of government, military and state industry.

That said, the more easily picked fruits from the lowest hanging branches of globalisation have now been in most part well and truly exhausted, and over the last decade there has been increased recognition that Brazil must participate in the creation of the 'value-added', which thus means the shift from a a copy and indeed 'copy +' template of internationalised goods and services, and toward increased contribution of what might be termed 'additive and innovative' thinking and application across all its industrial and commercial arenas.

Dynamic Companies and Regions:
(Examples of...)

In the advanced materials space Bravox was amongst the first to utilise carbon fibre as a hi-tech USP when it created carbon fibre speakers. Whether for perceived consumer status reasons or indeed to better sound quality is not truly known, but herein the enterprise viewed an opportunity to both rebalance the costs of its intrinsically high labour content manufacturing base with the income from a highly esteemed artefact, even if ultimately the technology story is itself might be more style over scientific substance.

Using carbon fibre for the casing and part internals of such a simple item has provided the beginnings of familiarity with such a 'miracle' production material. In terms of a first foot on the bottom rung of the advanced materials ladder, this puts Bravox on par with the early efforts and learning and applications curve of the national GRP niche vehicle pioneers fifty years ago. Although the matt, mould process, vacuum process and curing process are different, this production method is most likely undertaken by engineering enthusiastic young people who themselves no doubt would like to be a future part of a much enlarged carbon-fibre design and production effort that allows Brazil to create not only its own F1 and niche production cars, but a myriad of B2B and B2C applications.

As regards IT, population use of the web, proliferation of mass-media broadcast, personalised social media and the idea of Brazil as an IT outsourcing hub, the country is still undergoing its IT revolution. About half the people are now frequently 'on-line' thanks to the positive price effects of scaled economies in hardware production across China, SE Asia and indeed S.America, with obviously the rise of smart-phones creating 24-7 connectivity for the more fortunate.

By 2010 Brazil boasted 4,000 IT companies, albeit most appearing to pertain to IT retail with only a small number operations understood to be true IT start-ups and ongoing concerns (most from the mainframe era). Nonetheless, the past 20 years has seen major GDP growth and with that the modern norms of IT adoption far beyond the office and into people's homes and hands, a prime driver of which has been for educational reasons when overseen by parents.

The lobbying of IT associations such as Brasscom meant that relatively early on Brasilia recognised the potential for Brazil to become the 3rd global IT hub for outsourcing, with obvious focus upon the early adoption needs of Latin and Central America, aswell as further afield into the maturity of North America and European markets.

During the 2000s government subsidies in terms of tax-breaks and other attraction incentives saw strong FDI from the likes of Hewlett Packard, Accenture, British Telecom and TATA Consulting Services, so creating the nodal links for a broader indigenous construct of Brazil's own firms to support such transformational foreign entrants.

But Brazil could never realistically compete as an IT hub on a cost basis against India and SE Asia.

Instead it has had to carve itself a position within the mid-value sphere in which advantages such as technical English provide a service advantage; thus spanning much from web domain housing for the many companies and people seeking themselves to have a growing presence on-line, through to major programming, re-programming and de-bugging exercises on behalf of major clients, aswell as the conventional growth of B2B and B2C IT infrastructure, from corporate firewalls to 3G and 4G roll-outs through to home-located wi-fi routers.

However, there has been recognised opportunity in specific higher-value areas of IT, such as Portals, E-Commerce, Gaming, Social Media, Lifestyle Apps specifically suited to smaller and nimble start-up enterprises. And to this end Brazil has sought to form its own version of Silicon Valley. Thus today names such as 'ClickBus', 'EasyTaxi', 'Passei Directo', Nubank' and many others have gained various funding ('Bootstrap' to renowned foreign VC firms) with their aim of disrupting the seemingly engrained corporate incumbents of everyday life.

[NB though of course most of their own business models are undoubtedly of high-priced 'planned exits' directly into the hands of these wealthy Brazilian and foreign corporations].

The city of Recife sits within the region of Pernambuco located on the NE tip of the coastline. Its the 6th largest municipality with much Portugese, Dutch and British history and is notionally named 'the Venice of Brazil' given its cultural importance. Economically it is a prime business centre with a wide range of industrial activities (Brewing, Canning, Shipbuilding, Automotive, Electronics, Tube production, Chocolate and Textiles), aided by 2 ports and an international airport; thus creating a Logistics hub. Latterly it has become the 2nd most important Medical centre (after Sao Paolo) and in recent years has nurtured itself as a national 'hot-house' regards IT Software development; this in no small part thanks to the activities of the University of Pernambuco.
This is centred around 'Porto Digital' with strong business connections to the US, India, Japan, China and elsewhere, the international interaction of the students and faculty of Pernambuco University providing the interactive backdrop with leading efforts such as the business incubator C.E.S.A.R. Supporting the 'spinning-out' of 30 start-up companies.

However, this IT revolution was only thanks to the initial backing of Sun Microsystems two decades ago in 1996 when it provided the hardware and software for the University to start the flourishing learning process that led to 'Porto Digital'.

Yesteryear's Educational and Research Collaboration
Informs Tomorrow's Cyber-Mobility Age -

Thus as described previously private and often foreign-owned industry has been the motive power of educational improvement in Brazil. From the mid 1960s onward since the new Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz plants in Sao Bernardo do Campo took on graduate engineers from across Sao Paulo, and directly helped guide the local academic curriculum, through to Renault-Nissan's promise to create a major Design and Development centre in Brazil (and India) which exactly mirrors in IT and staff capabilities their lead centres in France and Japan.

Indeed it was that relationship building between the automotive sector and local academia has resulted in the area of Sao Bernardo do Campo boasting 14 higher education institutions.

Trucks, Buses and Cars then could be said to have not only mobilised Brazil, but also – because of their industrial complexity (from Commodities to Chemicals to Mass and Niche Production) and their socio-economic importance (from Marketing to Point of Sale) - been the 'Vehicles of Education' for the country at large.

Vehicles themselves have obviously become increasingly efficient in manufacture and use, and long since become 'mobile computers', so that confluence of 'efficient mobility' continues forward at a faster pace in the 'networked' digital-age.

Thus just as manufacturers have embraced ever greater electronics content (from diagnostics to hybrid-powertrain to full EV propulsion to context-mapping with scanners and toward local area network mobility ordering) so that relationship between the auto-industry and the research arms of respected academia has become increasingly critical, so as to robustly create 'tomorrow's world'.

Although much improved since the mid 1990s, given the still sizable infrastructure and socio-economic challenges of EM nations (from the rise of MegaCities to problems of remote rural mobility) the collaborative agenda moves ever forward.

That next phase regards the mobility dimension of Socio-Economic Planning is well upon us, the achievements of the last 15 years turning what was once science fiction into science fact.

Brazil then must re-orientate itself so that its academic establishments can absorb and expand the cyber-mobility breakthroughs made by the numerous Californian university and private laboratories, themselves often quickly absorbed in the Advanced Engineering Departments of the world's major automotive companies.

Given the immense future potential of Brazilian economic growth and the need to plan and actualise that future, even other countries seek to participate. Hence, the British government, having already funded a new vehicle certification office in Sao Paulo to assist import/export potential, more recently allotted £2.4 million via 'Innovate UK' for projects that use 'cutting-edge' solutions to improve cities in Brazil.

If the original development of Brasilia City was the planners' modernist dream in the 'internationalist style' sixty years ago, so the modernising, e-connectivity and 'future-proofing' of all Brazil appears to be the present internationalist agenda.

The global convergence story continues...with Brazil's Regional and Transport Planning clearly centre-stage.

It is here then that Brazilian Government (through the BNDS fund for development), Academia (via Plataforma Lattes and planned 'spin-outs'), Industry (through sponsorship and co-incubation) and Intenational Finance (from 'seed funding' to 'tipping-point' acquisition) should be practically ambitious in seeking to help plot the future across ever distant time-frames.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Micro Level Trends – Brazil's Automotive Sector – “Brazil 66”...Sixty Six Years of Economic Power Lifting (Part 4.6) [Returned]

[The following is re-posted for re-acquaintance given the fact that it was 'cut-short' to provide for the annual Xmas and New Year 'Alternative Messages']. 

The prolific and expansive educational power of the country's auto-industry from the early 1960s onward did much to help provided the foundations for what became an ever more diverse transportation-based engineering homeland.

The commercial prosperity and intellectually-absorbed propulsion that those co-opted (notionally 'indigenous') foreign trucks, buses and cars provided the roots for new domestic aspirations across both home-made transport engineering and indeed 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)
- Iveco
- 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
2. Busscar
3. Marcopolo
4. Neobus
5. Mascarello

Transplants -
6. Irizar (Spanish owned)

Domestic Chassis-Cab Producers -
7. Agrale

Package Integrators -
8. Comil

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 histrocial achievements, and indeed those who helped to obtained them. With this the company today maintains a very respectable archive of material today dedicated to the memory of Valter Gomez Pinto, who himself dedicated his efforts to the success of the firm and all stakeholders. “Bravo” to the present Board for highlighting Sinhor Pinto.

Neobus S.A. -
(Marcopolo Group)
[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 Paranรก, 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' -

Irizar -
[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)
- Trucks
- 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. -
(Mascarello Group)
[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.

Monday, 2 January 2017

The Alternative New Year Message – 2017

The issue of western social fragmentation, leading to much increased friction, has today become of such great importance that the annual Alternative New Year Message continues this vein.

[NB investment-auto-motives remains wholly apolitical and irreligious].

It is unfortunate yet highly ironic that here in the UK the political right's idealisation of individualism and self-determination during the 1980s (with the mantra of enterprise), became superseded by unbounded influence of the liberal-left. In the early 1990s modernised socialism had been itself reformed to serve the lost centre-ground, and provide new hope to destitute communities, whilst enlarging the post-industrial economy. However, as defunct coal-faces, steel mills and ship-yards were at long last replaced by call-centres, distribution-centres and shopping malls the societal aspect of British socio-economics was becoming incrementally yet fundamentally altered.

By 2010 new 2.0 version of 'individualism' had been created, wherein self-identity derived more from one's being than one's actions. The central foundation-stones of yesteryear's ideas about the power of one-self (critically regards self-improvement for the betterment of self and espoused by ancient philosophers to early 20th century thought leaders and influenced scientists and industrialists [ie Emerson, Curie, Edison, Ford]) had become disingenuously used to invisibly build multiple walls of social separation and disharmony.

Such efforts by portions of the far left were not recognised as people and politicians 'danced whilst the music was playing' since the national demographic appeared to consist almost totally of new middle-class who themselves enjoyed the monetary fruits made available.

Nonetheless much had in reality changed for the bad, especially amongst and between the sexes, generations and creeds, whilst at least there was perceptual improvement amongst different, typically urban-diffused, races

The Sexes -

Amongst the sexes, especially the under 50s, things have drastically declined.

The devastating ramifications of the 2008 'Great Recession' (itself the bursting of financial irrational exuberance, the financial wizardry and 'double-speak' masked as convention) resulted in the economic fracturing of the families and couples. Often the personal reaction to those financial stresses was a self-serving 'bugger you' attitude, the different sensibilities between people and often the sexes now exposed.
Those differences regards financial responsibility (income vs outgoings) inevitably led to relationship stresses which led to break-downs.

But perhaps the worst examples of that 'FU' attitude was when an stay at home partner/wife and mother, extremely unhappy about her changed economic circumstances and spending-power, sought her 'self-preservation' escape plan. Seeing her partner as now economically useless as a limited or non-provider, atttention was drawn to the value of accrued 'home equity' and the economic leverage of children under 16 years of age. That 'escape plan' was seen as a 'life-boat' by many, and thus perpetuated deliberately created dischord between the partners involved.

This may appear harsh, and obviously does not accord to those couples and families who held together through the bad times, but it was a pattern seen time and time again over the last decade.

The result has been the emergence of the men's MGTOW community (Men Go Their Own Way) – consisting of those who have been financially and mentally damaged by what they see as the social pitfalls of rampant, media-led, “Socialised Feminism”, itself initially rightly giving women equality, but failing to likewise take on the responsibilities that go with the rights of equality.

MGTOWs believe that the artificially created 'prosperity bubble' - upon which female-led employment and consumerism - created wholly unrealistic/artificial perceptions and expectations and moulded women into becoming more materialistic, immature and selfish. People who would effectively 'live for today' without thought for a bad tomorrow; but with arrival of such bad times would instead destroy the family unit to provide for her own economic advantage.

Moreover, they believe themselves as revealing the true nature of women, “behind the PC bullshit”, who are by instict 'hypergomous' (ie always seeking the better mate option with greater 'resources') and willing to 'monkey-branch' (ie swing from partner to partner to gradually improve her own standard of living). Female expectation now so high that only a very small minority of truly 'Alpha' males (as determined by income at least) are desired by many women for long-lasting coupling, with the majority of average men seen as unfit for the 'self-obsessed' female. Men are then seen as little more than “resource providers”, not for the human beings they truly are.

This very unfortunately has been the emerged outcome whereby many divorced and older men have had such bad experiences that they have essentially 'walked away' from the idea of committed heterosexual relationships, and not being homosexual, have instead become asexual (in body, if not in mind).

Furthermore, perhaps most visibly, the plethora of uploaded YouTube videos of women falsely claiming themselves as victims of male initiated harassment, intimidation and violence (from partners to family members to strangers), a predetermined profound bullying tactic by some females to gain immense power over the man by utilising the police and law for nefarious ends, has massively altered many mens' basic trust in the opposite sex.

Even the remotest possibility of being trawled through such accusations means that the only fail-safe option is to avoid even the possibility of such painful and socially detrimental experiences; thus to physically and mentally distance himself from such potentially problematic people.

This MGTOW emergence amongst men, for their own 'self-preservation' has been seen in Japan over the last two decades (for economic reasons), and now the trend is most definitely engrained in western society; many fathers telling their sons to effectively wholly distrust women given their critically observed tendencies.

Another outcome has been some men's demands that true equality be practised by women, ranging from splitting the bill fairly for a date (as opposed to the expectancy of the man paying...setting the pattern for life) through to women entering the fighting front-line in military combat .

They accuse women in general (though of course not all) of typically abject double-standards, emotional/mental manipulation, everyday dishonesty, being immature about the seriousness of deceit, becoming arrogant and 'entitled' and much else.

In short the modern era ultimately mating the worst character traits with the societal power now gained to knowingly undermine men in many varied ways.

At its heart MGTOW views the historical patriarchy as the natural and most productive social order, whereby women's follies were kept in check within the family and so across society, and believes that society has suffered greatly ever since 'empowerment' has been used as group-think for anti-male balligerency.

MGTOWs appear to respect the righteous and wholly legitimate equality of women where true parallels exist (eg in the workplace performing the same function, the truly respectable examples of womanhood, etc) but believe the real-world consequences of 3rd and 4th wave feminist propaganda has created a gender schism because of the social ripples of the very vocal far left.

And specifically because in many recognised instances 'empowered' 'equalised' women themselves actually fail to live up to the standards that most men by and large have had to live up to for previous eons given their familial and societal responsibilities.

That gender fracture has unfortunately been growing ever larger and today represents a very destructive chasm.

The Generations -

Inter-generational relationships unfortunately appear to have become, in many instances, more separated than ever, as the effects of liberalism and lifestyle choices and technological immersion have taken hold.

Perhaps most prescient has been the decline of aforethought and personal responsibility and rise of social 'externalities' and broad-scale 'moral hazard', as endemic in society as within the financial system.

Well advised warnings about personal restraint (moral, behavioral, financial, sexual etc) from the parents of the 'Baby-Boomers' have became increasingly ignored by the postWW2 born generation, their 'Gen X' offspring, and in turn their 'Millenial' children. Increased freedoms that were often for the broader good also brought with them created much deeper socially destructive forces, as the existences of each generation became more and more different.

That change together with much altered economic base meant that - as has been now well understood - meant that much of the nation's intellectual capacity and prowess was not enlarged, with a major bias toward creating unthinking socialised consumers over very real producers. That of course grew facets such as Marketing and Advertising, but the advancement of Humanities and the Liberal Arts created increased 'Fundamental (Dis)Orientation amongst the nation's university intakes, when long ago Media-Studies, Sociology, Psychology and Gender Studies combined over-took the recognised importance and positive societal impact of the Sciences and Engineering subjects.

[NB the intake spaces for those vital olde-worlde subjects ultimately often filled by BRIC and EM nationality students. Whilst insights into the applications of sociology and psychology has propelled both liberal group allegiance and been used as weapons against those seen as ideological enemies, most notably the old order patriachy].  

By the early 2000s devastating climate change was apparently upon us, requiring a massive western and world-span reaction enabled through new thinking for new and revived technological solutions. Instead however much of the next generation coming into adulthood had become subsumed not by the natural world around us, nor the engineering that had created the man-made, but by media and social-media which at the 'common denominator' level is extremely adolescent at best.

In its search for profit through deregulation, the mass-media long ago reversed from the public broadcast edicts of John Reith (inform, educate and entertain) and in all but a few areas the valid issues of commercialisation and profit had led to sensationalism and manufactured petty-drama where there was once arguably over-censorship; with the latter perhaps preferable in a world where reality TV becomes all too real via fashionable mimicry.

Society has moved from one extreme to the other and thus vis a vis the climate-change imperative and so much more, it is now “the people who fiddle (on their own devices) as [insert location] metaphorically burns”.

This may appear a simplification and indeed over-statement.

But it probably takes something akin to the metaphor of a Victoria's Secret fashion show, to have people recognise the problem.

The problem that whilst the millions of image and identity self-obsessed people themselves promenade along their own lifestyle 'run-ways' engrossed at the apparent attention of others amongst their notional 'follower' crowd and who in turn obsess about their celebrity idols or supposed suffrage martyrs (now entwined with Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner), society as a whole comes ever closer to the end / edge of its own truly 'value-adding' philoso-socio-economic runway.

The Chinese, Russians, Africans (and now even historically liberal Rio de Janerians with election of their new Mayor) all recognise the folly of this and themselves maintain or re-recognise the social strength of the old-fashioned, standard centre-ground.

The new year requires a radically new start for the West, and with the strength of the far right now very evident as regards a populist reaction amongst older folks, it is beyond time that western politicians re-stake the importance of the vital but now overlooked ideologies promoted by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

That new centre-ground does not have to be independent of idols, and indeed many of Victoria's Secret's 'Angels' are involved with efforts spanning Sustainability to Children and by default illustrate the best of themselves.

Simply that all idols should truly represent the best of the human spirit and soul, whereby learning, intelligence, wisdom and all the virtues of true old-fashioned adulthood once more comes to the fore.

"Fewer Kardashians and more Cartesians please"