¡Trabalhadores do Brasil!

“Workers of Brazil!” This was the cry that Gétulio Vargas, Brazil’s most influential politician in the 20th century, used to start his speeches. The reason was double: for one, he presented himself as a “Candidate of the people,” and as such appealed to the workers; for another, his second term presided over the beginning of Brazil’s largest industrial expansion, one heavily leveraged under strict protectionist policies and that would have the automotive manufacturing industry as its dearest child.

Whether protectionism works or not is outside the scope of this article. Either way, Gétulio Vargas’ legacy lives on — despite some free market reforms in the ’90s — and Brazil’s automotive market (the largest in the region) remains a very protected one. This is why, absent local production, EV market share is likely to remain marginal.

Enter BYD.

BYD to build three factories in Brazil’s State of Bahia

Now, my colleague Remeredzai beat me to this one, and you can read his article here: BYD Will Produce Electric & Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles In Camaçari, Brazil. But, if you wish for a summary, the gist of the matter is that BYD is taking over Ford’s former Camaçari Plant and building 3 different factories (or production lines) in the complex: one for processing lithium and phosphate-iron (so we can already know all vehicles will have LFP batteries), one for building bus and truck chassis, and one for personal vehicles. The investment amounted to R$3 billion ($625 million), production is expected to begin in late 2024, and BYD got a special tax discount from Bahia State: all vehicles under R$300,000 ($62,500) will be completely tax exempt.

This is very important for the Argentinian market as well because both countries have close commercial ties, and because Brazil — unlike most countries — can export vehicles to Argentina with very low or zero tariffs.

BYD Dolphin arrives at reasonable prices. FINALLY.

Some of you may remember my rant about a month ago regarding the high prices that EVs present in Latin America, an issue that has been consistent all over the region. If you look at the comparisons, Brazil consistently presents the highest prices, but it’s likely that margins are similar in the region and differences account only for higher tariffs.

Given that fact, it was a shock when BYD decided to present the BYD Dolphin in Brazil at the lowest price in the whole region (and by quite the margin):

Pricing was so low for the Dolphin that it ended up being cheaper than the Renault Kwid E-Tech and JAC E-JS1, city cars with less power and much smaller batteries. It immediately triggered a response from several companies (including JAC and Cherry) that lowered EV prices substantially to remain competitive. It’s telling that, despite significant tariffs, the Dolphin is cheaper in Brazil than in Colombia and Costa Rica, countries that have both exempted EVs from import duties.

And the results have been impressive. Over 300 reservations in the first hour, over 1,200 over the first week, and every single analyst predicting that the BYD Dolphin will sell more vehicles than every other BEV in Brazil combined.

As much as this is great news, one must point out that Brazil is a gigantic country where 2,104,143 vehicles were sold in 2022, so a few thousand electric units won’t make much of a difference. However, the price war that the BYD Dolphin seems to have started gives us hope this will be the year when the country finally surpasses 1% BEV market share. What do you think?

300 BYD D1 Cabs for Sao Paulo

99 is an urban mobility app owned by DiDi that operates in several Brazilian cities. On July 5th, the company announced an alliance with BYD to provide 300 BYD D1 cabs to be delivered before October that will be offered to drivers as rental work vehicles. The D1, with a 53 kWh battery, should be able to work all day in two shifts, requiring less than 1h for charging in between shifts. Even if 300 EVs may not sound like a lot, cabs are far larger gasoline users than personal vehicles, and every single one of them converted into an EV has an oversized impact on oil demand.

All transitions are slow, until they aren’t. BYD’s bet in Brazil may just be the accelerator needed to get the largest Latin American market into the game (and, by extent, many of its neighbors that heavily depend on Brazilian imports for their own automotive markets).


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