Carmakers are planning to invest up to US$11.2bn in Brazil over the next two years, taking advantage of pent-up demand for vehicles in Latin American’s largest economy, according to the president of industry group Anfavea, Cledorvino Bellini.

Bellini, also head of Fiat’s Latin American operations, said expansion plans follow an “extremely positive 2009 in Brazil.” Fiat sold more cars and light commercial vehicles in Brazil (737,000) last year than in its home market (722,000) – the first time Italy slipped to second in the automaker’s 111-year history.

The investment plans comes as April car sales for Brazil are expected to reach a record for the month, despite falling 13% from the all-time high in March.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally said earlier this year the automaker will increase funding for Ford Brazil to US$2.4bn from US$2.2bn in the period 2011 to 2015.

Brazil’s economy is forecast to grow nearly 6% this year, according to central bank estimates, fueled by an increase in credit to consumers and businesses, low unemployment and rising household income.

Car sales in the country rose 11.4% in 2009 from the previous year to a record 3.14m units, thanks in part to easier credit and government tax breaks.