15 November 2005

Flex-Fuel Minicar Introduced in Brazil

Automakers unveiled Brazil’s first mini-car on Friday, a super-compact to be built here for export to the United States as a solution to parking and fuel supply problems.

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It’s the Obvio – Portuguese for obvious. Designed and built in Brazil, it seats three on a single seat and will be sold in California starting next year, the government news agency Radiobras said.

“Obvio has a US$700 million contract with the American group ZAP to export 50,000 cars a year,” Wagner Victer, the Rio de Janeiro state Secretary of Energy, said in a statement at the car’s first showing Friday.

The company also plans to export the Obvio to Europe and Asia, gradually raising production to around 80,000 units a year, company President Ricardo Machado told Radiobras.

The Obvio will come in two models, a sporting style and a city version, that will sell for US$14,000 and US$28,000, the agency said.

Both will be “flex-fuel” cars, able to run on either gasoline or pure ethanol, which powers many Brazilian cars. Despite its small size, the Obvio will be equipped with a high-performance, 1.6-liter engine of 115, 170 or 250 horsepower.

The Obvio will be presented to U.S. consumers at the San Francisco auto show on Oct. 19, Machado said.

The Obvio won’t initially be available in Brazil. The local market is dominated by Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford and Fiat, which manufacture cars here, although other automakers are allowed to import and sell cars.

Source: Forbes.com Nov. 11, 2005.

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