BRASILIA, Brazil – The Brazilian bicycle market is not top of mind for many people when talking about the global bicycle industry. The whole nation is car minded and many Brazilians see themselves as Michael Schumacher’s manqués. The city of São Paulo, home of the biannual Bicycle and Motorcycle show Saloa Duas Rodas, adds a net 50,000 cars per month to its fleet. The biggest city in the country, with 20 million inhabitants, is home to the second largest fleet of cars in the world after Tokyo-Yokohama. How come this nation of car addicts is among the top five in global bicycle sales and even top three in bicycle production?
The Bicycle Market in Brazil
Brazil’s performance within the global bicycle industry is rather impressive. The world’s fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population, also ranks number five in the bicycle market, according to the national industry organization Abraciclo (Associacao Brasileira dos Fabricantes de Motocicletas, Ciclomotores, Motonetas, Bicycletas e Similares). Ranking right behind China, USA, India and Japan, the Brazilians are buying 5.7 million bicycles this year. In terms of production, Brazil is even higher on the list. With an annual output of 5.7 million units, Brazil is the third biggest bicycle producer in the world after China and India. Next to China, India, Netherlands and Japan, Brazil has the largest number of bicycles per capita. The total fleet ranges 60 million units. This figure might look impressive, but it’s important to remember it’s for a population of over 190 million people.
In the latest statistics published by Abraciclo the Brazilians are slowly shifting to a more bicycle friendly attitude, resulting in more bicycle sales. In 2009 the Brazilian market totalled 5.3 million units. Abraciclo expects an average rise of five percent for the next three years, resulting in a total market size of 6.3 million bicycles in 2012. You could see these growth figures as impressive, but don’t forget the hard times this market has gone through. In 2005 we could still report a market volume of at least 9 million. At that time the estimates of the total market were even higher, due to the smuggling of bikes from other South American countries in order to avoid paying duties.
Although lower than in 2005, the anti-dumping duties on imported bicycles from China, Taiwan and Vietnam is still 20%. The anti-dumping duties for the import of P&A from these three countries range from 14% to 20%. The impact of smuggling will have ceased as these anti-dumping rates apply to imports in all Mercosul (Southern Common Market) members (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and associate members (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela).
The segmentation on the Brazilian market is a clear indication what bikes are used for. Not everybody in this car-loving country can afford an automobile. No less than 50% of Brazil’s 60 million cycles are used for transportation. For the future of the market this could mean a huge potential, but also a big danger. Millions of relatively poor people who now use a bike for their transportation may buy a car as soon as they can afford one. The low number of recreation and sports bikes is a clear sign that roads are unsafe and cycling is no fun in this vast country. The size of the fourth category makes the Brazilian market very attractive for suppliers of this specific segment. There is probably no other market in the world with a fleet of 19 million kids’ bikes. Another characteristic of the market – it’s estimated that over half of the bikes are single-speed.
Abriciclo’s strategy is to create a more positive atmosphere towards cycling to get more people on a bike. The arguments used are the same as anywhere else in the world. Cycling is healthy, good for the environment and is an important means to reduce traffic congestion in the cities. For Abraciclo one of their main challenges for the years ahead is to adapt the country’s existing road system, which is 100% focused on cars, to a more bicycle friendly lay-out providing more safety for cyclists. The industry organization considers several European cities as their example and is working on the implementation of a cycling infrastructure in its own country. Rio de Janeiro is even cited as an illustration of what is possible in Brazil. The carnival capital of the world has a small cycling network connecting the major tourist attractions, schools, stadiums, and of course the beaches.
A growing number of Brazil’s state capitals are integrating bicycle infrastructure in their transportation policies and some have even introduced rental bike systems. The Ministry of Transport and Cities throughout the country are encouraging the use of bicycles in the city as means of transportation. In addition to investments in cycling infrastructure, some cities even offer financial support to encourage people to start riding a bike.
Looking at official statistics, the amount of cycling paths is limited but growing. Curitiba, a city with 1.8 million inhabitants has 120 kilometres of cycling path. Other examples of cities who are presenting themselves as ‘bicycle friendly’, if one can say that of any Brazilian metropolis, are Vitoria with 23 kilometres of cycling paths, Acre with 22.5, Florianopolis with 25 kilometres, and Aracaju with 28 kilometres.
São Paulo has created a high-profile scheme to encourage cycling: on Sundays before 2 pm, an entire lane is marked off with cones for cyclists on some of the city’s busiest routes. At every junction young people hold “Pare” (Stop) signs, indicating to cyclists when to wait and when to go, policing the scheme, and generally keeping two-wheeled traffic on the road. These initiatives may sound fantastic but it is not common practise. In daily traffic cyclists often pedal against the traffic along busy streets. It allows them to see what is happening in traffic and avoids being hit by a car from behind. It makes clear that São Paulo has a long way to go.
Future of Local Production in Danger
Abraciclo certainly does not deny that the local industry is facing some problems, resulting in stagnation of future developments. In a recent report the national industry organization pointed out that the market is confronted with unfair competition. The Brazilian bicycle industry is losing its competitiveness on the domestic market, exports are under pressure, and imports of bicycles, as well as parts and components, are expanding rapidly. This results in a trend toward reduction in the production of bicycles and their components, because the import option appears more advantageous.
The reason for this trend can be attributed to the relatively high cost structure of the South American industry when compared with Asian countries and the easy entrance of imported products. In the long term this trend will lead to the loss of jobs and disinvestments of existing local industries, the loss of technology and know-how as well as foreign capital. In order to stop this development Abraciclo has urged for more support of the national industry by creating more jobs, to stimulate the usage of bicycles and stimulate export.
Usage of Bicycles
Region Spreading of Bicycles