Brazil's Favorite Luxury Car Makers

Crusing Avenida Atlantic in Rio in a Benz with the top down is potentially dangerous. Brazilians tend to exaggerate the sense of danger in their big cities. Those that are most worried about being carjacked drive Range Rovers. No. 1 selling luxury car in Brazil last year was the Range Rover Evoque SUV, the most bullet-proofed vehicle in Brazil. Source Forbe

Brazil’s auto market has been seen as one of the hottest in the world. Companies like Volkswagen and Fiat sell more cars there than they do in their home markets. This is especially true for Fiat. In the mid to late 2000s, Brazil was selling around two million passenger cars year. Today, it sells closer to four million, according to Anfavea, the Brazilian Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
But always within the entry level space there is room for the niche player, the maker of the luxury models that are the desire of youth and of middle aged man; the toys for the rich and the celebrity.
Brazil’s luxury car market is puny compared to the United States and China high end markets. In fact, over the last 20 years, since 1991, Abeiva, the association of Brazilian automotive importers, said its members sold just 1.1 million vehicles, of which Kia Motors Kia Motors represented around 30%. Still, this is a market the luxury makers see as having “great potential for the future”.
And if Brazil isn’t the “country of the future” — as is culturally known — then who is?
Last month, luxury hounds at the Digital Luxury Group released their World Luxury Index Brazil survey for various segments of the market, from apparel to hospitality. They found that brand interest in luxury names increased by 24% in 2012. But what I found out here at Forbes is that does not translate into higher sales. Interest isn’t tangible. In fact, of the top 10 luxury car makers on the Digital Luxury Index, not one saw an increase in sales last year over 2011 and some — like Mercedes Benz — have been slumping for years.
Nevertheless, automobiles account for 49% of the luxury market in Brazil. The next closest item is beauty and skin care, at a respectable 18%.
According to industry data, less than 40,000 luxury cars were sold in Brazil in 2012, the Digital Luxury Group said. Here are the makes and models they love most down there.

President Dilma tests out a Benz

President Dilma Rousseff tests out a Mercedes Benz at the 2012 São Paulo Auto show. Imported vehicles account for a fraction of the nearly four million cars sold in Brazil each year. But it's a market with great potential as incomes rise and tastes move a bit upscale. According to the Brazilian Association of Automotive Importers (ABEIVA), Brazil imported a record breaking 853,838 cars in 2011, up from 657,517 in 2010, 489,918 in 2009 and 394,153 in 2008. It's been rising and there's no looking back. The rub? Not all imports are luxury. Kia Motors is the number one imported vehicle in Brazil, accounting for around 27,000 units sold within the ABEIVA membership alone.

The Search Data.

An aerial view of Copacabana Beach with cars driving along the storied Avenida Atlantica in Rio de Janeiro. To compile data on what luxury car makers Brazilians were most interested in, the Digital Luxury Group used Google data on 20 million searches between January and June of last year. Here are the car makers the Brazilians sought out most.

No. 10: Cadillac

This is a Cadillac CTS. Brazil is a brand new market for the Caddie, so the auto import association ABEIVA does not have sales data for 2012-13. Out of the top 50 most-searched car models, 18 were sports cars and 17 were SUVs, according to the Digital Luxury Group. Cadillac individual models were not in the top 10.

No. 9: Bugatti

A row of Buggatti Veyrons. If you got it, flaunt it. These things are the price of a mansion in most cities in the world. According to ABEIVA's data going back to 1991, their members sold a total of two Bugattis in the Brazilian market since. The Veyron ranked as the fourth most searched for luxury model in Brazil. We can probably chalk that up to dreamy auto mag editors and teenagers. The closest these guys will get to a $2.5 million Veyron is in Play Station's Test Drive Unlimited.

No. 8: Lamborghini

Like the Bugatti, the Lamborghini is another wishful-thinking vehicle of male auto enthusiasts around the world, not just Brazilians. This one here, however, has Brazil's super star singer/songwriter Roberto Carlos behind the wheel. The 72 year old crooner is one of Brazil's wealthiest entertainers. According to ABEIVA, Brazil sold 9 Lamborghini's last year, down from around 15 the year before.

No. 7: Volvo

An ad from a Volvo dealership in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro. Volvo passenger car sales totaled 2,325 in 2012, more than 40% less than they sold in 2011. The XC-60 is the tenth more searched for luxury model.

No. 6: Porsche

A Rio de Janeiro plated Porsche. The German luxury brand sold 301 cars in Brazil last year, down from 1,134 in 2011. The Cayenne model is the eighth more searched for luxury model in the country

No. 5: Ferrari

A trio of different models of Ferraris over looking Pão de Açucar mountain in Rio. Judging by all the power lines zig zagging across the sky, this was probably taken in or near the favelas. Ferrari sold 27 vehicles in Brazil last year, down from 36 in 2011, according to ABEIVA.

No. 4: Range Rover

Tata Motors' Range Rover Evoque is the 2nd most searched for car model and No. 4 maker overall. This is a car for people on the run, or afraid of being hijacked. It was the most armored vehicle in 2012, according to Abrablin, the Brazilian Association of Automotive Security. An average of 500 Evoques sold every month in 2012, helping Tata's Land and Range Rover models bring in 5,438 sales last year. That was down from record breaking 8,968 vehicles sold in 2011. Evoque leads this brand. It also represents 10% of all the bullet proofed cars sold in Brazil.

No. 3: Mercedes Benz

The majority of Mercedes Benz's on the roads in Brazil are busses and trucks, carrying soybeans to Santos and the gainfully employed to and from work. Mercedes has been struggling there and have laid off hundreds over the last year. The C Class is a fave of Brazil car enthusiasts but none of the members of ABEIVA sold any last year. Mercedes C remains a difficult sell in Brazil despite the love.

No. 2: BMW

BMW sales chief Ian Robertson says Brazil is a market with "tremendous potential for the future." The brand is far and away the No. 1 selling luxury car maker in Brazil, selling over 13,000 vehicles in 2011, better than all its competitors. Last year, sales declined to 4,428, and that put Tata's Land/Range Rover models in first. Since 1991, BMW has sold over 57,000. German rival Mercedes has sold just 12,327 vehicles.


No. 1: Audi

The Audi is the go-to status symbol within the German luxury sedan auto makers. But few are truly buying. According to ABEIVA, Audi sales were just around 2,000 last year, crashing from 6,974 the year before and still below 2010 sales of 3,272.

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