For the first time since they were introduced in Brazil in March 2003, flex-fuel vehicles have dominated monthly sales here.

According to Brazil's National Association of Vehicle Manufacturers (Anfavea), 67,560 flex-fuel cars and light commercials were sold in May, accounting for 47.3% of the 142,978 new vehicles sold in the country, including trucks and buses.

Petrol vehicles accounted for 41.4% of May sales. Diesel vehicles had a 9.4% slice and alcohol-only cars took 1.9%.

Brazil bans sales of diesel passenger cars and allows that type of engine only in light commercials with more than one ton cargo capacity or four-wheel drive, trucks and buses.

Nowadays, six of the 16 automakers building cars and light commercials in Brazil make vehicles with engines that run on petrol, alcohol or a blend of the two. Volkswagen, Fiat, General Motors, Ford, Renault and Peugeot already offer locally-made flexible models and, in August, Citroën will launch its first flex-fuel car.

The strong performance of flex-fuel vehicles actually helped to boost automotive sales in May. Sales increased 3.9% compared with the 137,978 vehicles sold in April. Year-on-year, sales grew 16.2%.

Despite the Brazilian reais increasing in value against the US dollar, exports have remained strong in the last few months. In May, automakers exported 74,750 vehicles worth $US 896.5 million.

"That was the best ever May export performance for the brazilian automotive sector", said Rogelio Golfarb, Anfavea´s president.

May exports were up 8.7% in units exported and 1.7% in income compared with April. Year on year, the May result was up 51.7% in units exported and 33.8% in income by sales.

With both domestic sales and exports growing, monthly vehicle was the highest so far this year. Brazil built 213,421 vehicles, an increase of 4.9% compared with the 203,473 units made in April, and up 19.2% on the 179,098 units made in May 2004.

Rogério Louro