Citroën, Peugeot and Renault are developing engines with flex-fuel systems to compete in the growing Brazilian market segment for cars that can run on petrol, alcohol or a blend of the two.

Last month, flex-fuel cars took 23% of total car sales in Brazil.

“It is a market trend in Brazil. The consumer accepts this technology and is important to enter this segment, because of this we are developing our flex-fuel engine,” said Bruno Grundeler, president of Peugeot do Brasil.

Only General Motors, Volkswagen and Fiat currently produce flex-fuel cars in Brazil, but, in August, Ford will also introduce the technology.

And now Peugeot has announced that sales of 1.6-litre flex-fuel versions of the Brazilian-made 206 hatchback and 206 SW will commence in the first quarter of 2005.

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The French carmaker is also considering building a flex-fuel 307 hatchback in Argentina for export exclusively to Brazil.

The 206’s 1.6-litre flex-fuel engine will also be used in a version of the Brazilian-made C3 which Citroën expects to launch at the beginning of 2005.

“The old Brazilian carmakers  (GM, VW, Ford and Fiat) had more agility to introduce the flex-fuel system because they learned with the production of alcohol engines. The newcomers need to start without knowing this technology”, said Dominique Maciet, Renault do Brasil vice-president.

Flex-fuel technology in Brazil is based on alcohol engine technology used in some local cars since the end of the 70s. It works with higher compression ratios and engine parts are reinforced to avoid the corrosive effects of alcohol.

Matching its French rivals, Renault has also promised its first Brazilian-made flex-fuel car in the first months of next year. The company will introduce versions of the Clio hatchback and sedan models with a 1.6-litre engine.

In the second half of 2005, Renault starts production of the Mégane Sedan II and will also make a flex-fuel version though the engine’s size has not been revealed.

Rogerio Louro