(Adds details of exports, comments from Anfavea president)
By Alberto Alerigi
SAO PAULO, March 7 Automakers in Brazil ramped
up production in February, spurred by strong exports and
expectations of recovering sales after a brutal four-year
downturn in what had been the world's fourth-biggest car market.
Automobile production rose 14.7 percent in
February from January and surged 39 percent from a year earlier,
national automakers' association Anfavea said on Tuesday. Sales
slipped 7.8 percent from January and fell 7.6
percent from February 2016.
Exports in the first two months of the year rose 73 percent
from a year earlier to about 104,000 vehicles, the best start to
a year on record. Brazil's auto exports have traditionally been
concentrated on neighboring Argentina, but carmakers are pushing
to improve access to markets such as Peru and Colombia.
Anfavea President Antonio Megale said exports increased
across Latin America in January and February, but it was too
early to tell if the pace would be sustained for the full year,
which would bring Brazilian car exports to a seven-year high.
Employment in the auto industry also edged up in the month
for the first time in three years, adding a few hundred jobs
after shedding some 35,000 since the start of 2014. Auto
factories in Brazil are still using less than half of installed
capacity, as high unemployment and tight credit pinches demand.
Brazil's auto market, which has shrunk to the world's
seventh largest according to Anfavea, remains a major base of
operations for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV,
Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co.
According to Anfavea data, FCA was Brazil's top seller of
new cars and light trucks in February, taking the title back
from GM with around 24,700 sales, ahead of its U.S. rival's
roughly 23,200 new registrations. VW sold about 17,200 vehicles.
Hyundai Motor Co rose from sixth to fourth place
with nearly 12,000 sales, surpassing 11,900 from Ford and about
11,100 from Toyota Motor Corp.
(Reporting by Alberto Alerigi Jr.; Writing and additional
reporting by Brad Haynes; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)