Recent evolutions in R&D activities in the Brazilian automotive industry

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2011)


Automotive industry, Brazil, developing countries, innovation, R&D


During the 1990s, the Brazilian automotive industry had undergone some profound changes in its structure, with economic liberalization, the New Automotive Regime, new assemblers and autoparts plants and its insertion in the global strategies of multinational companies. Research, development and engineering (R,D&E) activities in local firms had also been transformed, and it seemed that Brazil was emerging as a peripheral product development center, in a process that was deeply analyzed by some GERPISA researchers (such as Carneiro Dias and Salerno, 2003; Consoni and Quadros, 2003). Indeed, in 2003 it was launched a new-to-the-world, locally developed technology which had had a great impact in local market: the flex fuel technology. From the institutional side, a new federal law (known as “Lei do Bem”) which consolidates fiscal incentives linked to the promotion of R,D&E activities by local firms was promulgated in 2005. Since then, what has happened to R,D&E activities in the Brazilian auto industry? Did the flex fuel case help to promote Brazilian subsidiaries as a competence center to their headquarters? How did the industry react to the Lei do Bem? What is the current status of Brazilian subsidiaries, in which relates to R,D&E activities? Is there any kind of competition with other peripheral centers that might have emerged, such as China, India or South Africa?
In this paper, it will be presented an analysis of the current profile of R,D&E activities in the Brazilian automotive industry, based on three different sources: data from the Brazilian National Innovation Survey (PINTEC) from 2003, 2005 and 2008; a survey, carried out in 2010, with 69 Brazilian autoparts subsidiaries; and 8 case studies conducted in one assembler and seven of its first and second tier suppliers. Among other findings, the results showed that, in the Brazilian automotive industry, both the spending in innovative activities as a whole, and in internal R&D in particular, have increased in the period. Interestingly, autoparts companies were the main responsible for this increase, when compared to the motorvehicles firms. Both vehicle assemblers and autoparts have been reinforcing their local engineering in the period, hiring engineers and technical workforce, inaugurating laboratories, formalizing product development processes and increasing workers’ qualification. Most of the firms rely on partnership with clients, suppliers and other firms in their group for their innovative activities. On the other hand, partnership with local universities and research institutes are much less common.

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