Some 700 participants gathered for the II Forum of the Automotive Industry, held in São Paulo by media group Automotive Business. There were 22 lecturers and five debating panels discussing the present scenario and future prospects for the sector as a whole, both in Brazil and abroad.

Marcelo Cioffi, associate director for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, said that, despite the recovery of world production following the dark year of 2009, the location of production centres will change.

He said 'mature' countries will manufacture 37m units in 2011 and, for the first time, will be overtaken by emerging countries with 38m vehicles.

PWC’s 2017 projections point to 60m units leaving assembly lines in emerging countries versus just 42m in mature markets.

The sales outlook will also go through severe changes related to explosive growth in China. By 2015, the Chinese domestic market will reach 25m vehicles yearly. In the US, which has led the world for over eight decades, in 2005, their best year, volume was around 18m. On the European continent, with over 30 countries, 18.5m units were sold in 2007.

So forum attention was focused on China. In a debate, Sérgio Habib, JAC importer and thus a player for the Chinese in Brazil, cautioned: “We are selling above forecast, but a (Chinese) invasion is unlikely. It is difficult and highly expensive to set up a large sale and service network in Brazil."

Yet, he added that he might sell 100,000 units by 2012 an enviable volume by all means. “Over that number a local manufacturing operation is needed. Logistics costs would become insurmountable otherwise”.

Fernando Barbosa, economist for Bradesco (the third largest Brazilian bank), outlined the steep rise of households with enough buying power to purchase a new car in recent years. “In 2020, 58% of the population will be middle class,” he predicted.

Optimism was left aside only when discussing local production competitiveness, especially the auto parts industry. To make matters worse, in the short term Japanese automakers assembling locally will be hurt by irregular parts supply as a reflex of earthquakes and tsunamis in the home country. Toyota and Honda have already announced unplanned production halts in May.

In the next few days the government is expected to announce support for growth of several sectors of the Brazilian economy currently unfairly facing competition from imports or in export markets.

Paulo Bedran, of the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, could add little. He commented on the need to rebalance competition in view of the current, 35% import tax having less effect in relation to the Brazilian real revaluation.