The Flag Drops On The Great Brazilian Auto Race

Prospects of a huge Brazilian market spark big foreign outlays

On Mar. 11, a phalanx of top Ford Motor Co. manufacturing and marketing executives descended on the company's plant outside Sao Paulo, meticulously checking preparations for the Apr. 15 launch of Ford's new European-designed Fiesta car in Brazil. It's a critical moment for Ford as it attempts to play catch-up in one of the world's fastest-growing auto markets. Confident of a big win, Ford has dissolved its big Brazilian joint venture with Volkswagen and is going it alone, pouring a planned $2.5 billion into factories, products, and sales. After losing out to rival General Motors Corp. in a bid for a major venture in China, Ford executives are anxious for the company to be a winner in Brazil.

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