The global auto industry can have different faces depending on the location. Although the concept is pretty much the same everywhere - going from point A to point B - the shape of the vehicle can change dramatically in any market. Some may be available anywhere. Others are only found on the streets of specific markets, while still others are exclusive to certain countries.
As the world's economies are increasingly connected and dependent on each other, the auto industry has rapidly developed so-called global automobiles. It is basically a unique vehicle concept designed for an audience in many places. On the other hand, there are still many cars conceived, designed, and developed for a single market. They are the ones you probably won't see on your streets. Why do they exist even though they have no global potential?
A Cultural Question
North America loves big trucks. Residents here have had them for decades and they are part not only of the landscape and roads, but also of the idea of driving and transportation. The Ford F-150, Ram pickup, and Chevrolet Silverado are just three examples of vehicles designed exclusively for US motorists.
The latter want them simply because they are large, capable, and quite useful. They account for 14 percent of vehicle sales in the United States and 18 percent in Canada. But that's all. You won't see these beasts anywhere else, except in some Middle Eastern countries or some specific imports made in South America. They are too big and unecessary in the rest of the world.
A similar case exists in China with large and luxurious minivans. They are simply too boring, expensive, and out of proportion for most of the roads outside of this Asian nation. While the MPV segment has lost a lot of appeal in markets like the US and Europe, Chinese consumers continue to demand them.
In South America, there is a curious case of small pickups. Brazil is a big market for these vehicles, considering the country's large agricultural activities, poor road conditions, and the low purchasing power of the population. That is why vehicles like the Fiat Strada, Volkswagen Saveiro, and Chevrolet Montana are so popular in that country.
This is more or less the case with station wagons in Europe. While you can also find these cars in markets like the US and China, it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy one if you are not in the Old Continent. The reason? They are considered boring family cars. Today, around 64 percent of wagons sold worldwide remain in Europe.
Local Rules, Special Machines
There are other reasons why cars are not available in other countries. One of these is regulation. To protect their industry, countries create specific rules to incentivize local production and penalize imports. Japanese Kei-cars are the best example.
Dedicated taxation and generous purchase incentives have made these small cars the most common sight on the roads of Japan. Last year, these cars accounted for 30 percent of total car sales in the country. The problem is that local manufacturing is heavily focused on them, all while becoming more isolated with regard to global trends. As such, all of these cars remain in Japan.
The author of this article, Felipe Munoz, is a JATO Dynamics Automotive Industry Specialist.