Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Would the Volkswagen T2 "bus" still have a sustainable market-share in Brazil if it had received ABS brakes?

Needless to say the Volkswagen Type 2 van became an icon, not only among the most versatile vehicles but also culturally due to its influence, and in Brazil it soldiered on until late-2013 when updated safety regulations dictated that every new car or commercial vehicle should have ABS brakes, and dual airbag for new cars and some utilitarian vehicles according to their rated payload or passenger capacities if not fitted with dual-range 4-wheel drive. With its last iteration actually having some versions eligible for an exemption from the airbag rule, such as the panel van based on payload while a 15-seater school shuttle (escolar) and a 12-seater share-taxi (lotação) are registered as a bus in Brazil, the fitment of ABS brakes could render it still legal for Volkswagen to extend the production of the Kombi even further, even if the 9-seater Standard trim (which was the only passenger version that holders of a regular car driver license in Brazil can legally drive) would have to be phased out. Sure a panel van would be enough for many of the private buyers who get a T2 to convert into a campervan, while for most commercial operators who still opted for a Kombi the versions with a higher seating capacity made more sense.

Commercial vehicle buyers in Brazil tend to have a much conservative profile, so the Kombi had its fair share of suitability to the preferences of many operators, while its size was still more convenient on city traffic than some newer vans and trucks and a rear weight bias favored its cross-country ability without the expense of 4-wheel drive, which is an unusual feature for vans in Brazil anyway. Sure stricter safety and emission regulations would render it harder to keep the T2 up-to-date, such as the recently-enforced evaporative emission rules implemented this year, following the American standard instead of European and dictating the end of the supplemental gasoline tank which served as a cold-starting aid for flexfuel cars in Brazil, which the Kombi retained since the first dedicated-ethanol versions. Seemingly outdated, yet still beloved by operators who keep their Kombis operating instead of switching to newer vans with more safety and comfort features, the Kombi still had a quite sustainable demand in Brazil and little to no investment on advertising since the late-'90s, so most likely it would retain its market share if it had received ABS brakes once they became mandatory.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Coachbuilt full-size Brazilian Chevrolet square-body truck from the late-'80s

Brazilian car market has its fair share of makeshift models, with region-specific features sometimes not finding anything similar elsewhere, and it used to be that way for a quite long time since motor industry became consolidated at a first time in São Paulo state in the '50s, even though some companies such as GM had CKD assembly plants prior to that. General Motors for instance, started officially its Brazilian operation in 1925, having started to increase local content of its commercial vehicles range in 1934 and making the first Brazilian Chevrolet truck with a Brazilian-made engine in 1957 when the operations at the São José dos Campos plant started. That plant still makes trucks as of 2022, even though Brazilian production of full-size pick-up trucks and medium-duty commercial trucks came to an end in late-2001, yet old models such as the D20 which is basically a Perkins Diesel-powered Brazilian equivalent to the American square-body C20 are still a common sight, sometimes with extensive modifications including double-cab conversions meant to address both the lack of this option for professional operators and the restrictions against imported cars from 1976 to 1990 prompting wealthy Brazilians to consider choosing a full-size truck which could be upfitted in a way quite similar to the American "conversion vans".
It's worth to notice the Brazilian truck range used to have a much slower evolution than its counterparts from the United States, or even from neighboring countries which in fact relied on a considerably larger amount of imported parts often including most of the body panels, and a more work-oriented profile of most truck buyers prompted not only GM to offer a much more austere range having fewer options as a factory-fit, which in turn provided opportunities for all sort of aftermarket suppliers. Even though there was the local Suburban equivalent named Veraneio, better known for its large market share both among police forces and other law-enforcemend agencies and as ambulance, it remained stylistically related to the 5th-generation Suburban and 1st-generation C/K from 1964 to 1989, while the trucks switched from the 1st-generation C-series to the 3rd-generation in 1985, so converting a D20 of the 1988 model-year into some sort of van like this one coachbuilt by Auto Renovadora Boff (ARB) in São Marcos city, Rio Grande do Sul state, made sense at all. On a sidenote, during José Sarney's presidential term there were fiscal advantages for trucks, and even the ones with a payload below one metric ton could be converted to run on Diesel fuel while such modification was forbidden (and much harder to circumvent) for cars.