Strong, customized strategies will help powertrain manufacturers confront market challenges
Countries across Latin America (LATAM) have powertrain markets of varied structure. In Brazil, flex-fuel-engine and manual-transmission (MT) vehicles contribute to a major proportion of overall sales. In contrast, gasoline dominates the markets in Argentina, Colombia and Chile, where diesel too is rising in popularity. These trends, along with Paraguay's diesel-led market and Argentina's and Venezuela's widespread participation in compressed natural gas (CNG) conversion have intensified the diversity of the LATAM passenger vehicle powertrain space.
The recent analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Analysis of the Latin American Powertrain Market, covers the small, medium, high-end, van and pickup vehicle segments and considers powertrains that run on gasoline, diesel, flex fuel, and CNG/liquefied petroleum gas/bi-fuel. Of these segments, gasoline engines are expected to dominate the market by 2020, with a share of 46 to 48 percent.
"Key regulations specifying emission limits are reshaping the way in which the LATAM markets react to demand for powertrains," said Frost & Sullivan Automotive & Transportation Industry Analyst Yeswant Abhimanyu. "Most countries in the region that lag behind the emissions standards prevalent in the United States and Europe will implement Euro 5 norms by 2020 and thus require powertrain technologies that comply with these regulations."
In addition to emissions guidelines, fuel economy and energy efficiency targets that have been set or are being discussed in several LATAM countries, will aid market development. For example, Brazil's INOVAR energy-efficiency target of 1.82 megajoule/kilometer (km) and Mexico's SEMARNAT fuel-economy target of 14.6 km/liter will encourage original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to introduce next-generation powertrain technologies.
However, powertrain OEMs have to deal with challenges unique to each market in the region. Poor fuel quality restrains market growth in Peru. Meanwhile, in markets such as Brazil, the high cost of vehicles makes the incorporation of newer, cleaner powertrain technologies unfeasible in a price-sensitive market. On the upside, these trends point to opportunities for market participants to innovate and adopt cost-effective models to roll out appropriate powertrain technologies. In fact, LATAM is an ideal region to conduct research and development on flex-fuel engines and low-cost transmissions.
"Robust global strategies are crucial to tackle the high cost of powertrain technologies and achieve economies of scale so that more fuel-efficient technologies could be made available to a larger customer base," noted Abhimanyu. "Powertrain OEMs must tailor their strategies to each LATAM market to taste maximum success."
Already, global powertrain strategies have played a pivotal role in the arrival of new technologies. These strategies are the reason for current high-end segment models and top variants of B- and C-segment models using advanced powertrain technologies.
Among the various powertrain technologies in the market, variable valve timing, direct injection and turbocharging are anticipated to gain the most traction. Further, MT will continue leading the market, while dual clutch transmission and continuously variable transmission will expand their market share by 2020.