Three reasons why you wouldn’t really buy a Brazilian Ute

[Editor’s Note: We’ve got folks writing for us in Canada, Australia, Finland, and England… and now I’d like to welcome Gerardo Solis to the Hooniverse, to give us some insight into that lovely part of the world we call South America.]
I know, pickup trucks are getting ever so big and ostentatious. The new ‘Mid-Size’ Chevrolet Colorado is roughly the size of a 2001 Silverado, and it’s considerably better equipped. They’re no longer vehicles but rather more akin to luxury cars. A Replacement for the Lincoln Town Car and the Cadillac DeVille, if you will.
It’d be so much better if pickups were simpler, like those little ones they sell in Brazil. Well, greener as the grass may look you’ll have to trust me on this, you wouldn’t buy one, and here are five reasons why…

1. It’ll be expensive.
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that General Motors takes complete leave of its senses and decides that it’ll import their Montana Pickup truck into the good ‘ol US-of-A. Well, how much would you be willing to pay for it? $15,000? $17,000? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but you’ll have to pay quite a bit more for it. The truck already costs $15,000 as-is in Brazil, then you have to import it to the U.S which, by itself will add 25% to the price thanks to the all-powerful and all-annoying Chicken tax.
That’s before you add how much it’ll cost to federalize it and ensure it won’t crumple like a Datsun Go when tested. Did I mention that its parent car scored a grand total of 0 stars for safety in NCAP testing? That won’t look good on all the marketing they’ll have to do to sell it.
Bottom line? You’re looking at a sticker of around at least $20,000 before any options. By any, we really mean any options. The optional equipment includes air conditioning, central locking, and a height adjustable steering column. You know what else is around that price? The much bigger and more practical Colorado.

Pictured: Federalization costs

Now at this point you’re probably thinking, “Oh, that’s no problem. I’ll just buy one used and let someone else take the depreciation hit” Well, you’ve just entered the magical world of the gearhead depreciation paradox. This happens when someone really wants a car but not enough to actually buy it new, hoping they will be able to find it in the used market.
Unfortunately these vehicles are often so specialized that most people interested think the same way. So it doesn’t sell. And this one especially won’t sell. One reason is that it only comes with a manual gearbox, while another is…
2.It’ll be painfully slow. 
Credit where credit’s due, if you’re very good at packing you can fit up to 1556 lb. on the Montana’s 6’1” bed. VW’s Saveiro is very very slightly more generous at 1569 lb., though at 5’ 5” it’s actually less practical than the Chevy. Still they both have more payload capacity than the outgoing Toyota Tacoma in any guise. It’s nice, until you realize what you will have to move all that at one point or another.
The Saveiro will try to move it with a 1.6L engine, no turbo, and just 100HP. Unladen it’ll do 0-60 in 11 seconds, or around the same it takes a turbocharged two-cylinder Fiat 500 to do the same. There’s no word on how long will it take it with a full load in the back, maybe there’s some poor guy still going in circles in a test track trying to find out.
Compared to the VW, the Montana is a veritable hot rod with its Multi Point Fuel Injected 1.8 mill producing an amazing 105 HP but it’s somehow even slower, taking 12.3 seconds to reach the big number.
A time which scholars have qualified as “slower than the passage of time when listening to a 6-hour dissertation on why cake is delicious”. I ask you, would you like to haul your old drawer on the freeway on something with that blistering performance? I thought not.  
3.You can get a lot better locally.
So you’ve decided that you don’t care about the performance being as lacking as The Interview’s humor minus the hype; nor do you care that’s as overpriced as those balancing armbands which look suspiciously like normal armbands with a little foil paper in the middle. You decide you want something small, practical, and with a manual gearbox.
So what, then, is wrong with a Tacoma? Or a last-generation Chevrolet Colorado? Those were still the size of a true compact pickup truck. Besides, the market for small pickups is about to get a lot more interesting with the appearance of the new Tacoma and the new Frontier dangling diesel goodness ever closer to us as it inches it’s way to replace its aging sibling.
The Brazilian Utes, impressive as they are now, are really born out of restrictions and sheer necessity. Over the years, they’ve evolved from a Corsa/VW Gol that was strategically hit with a Sawzall into fully credited (albeit unibody) members of the pickup truck club.
If the restriction weren’t there however, I’m sure they’d have just imported Silverados.

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  1. david42 Avatar

    As much as we complain about the lack of brown diesel manual awd wagons, the US really is the world's best car market for the vast majority of buyers.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      From where I am standing, that is pretty much true. New car prices are ridiculous, gas is among the cheapest in the world (most certainly in the free world, save Indonesia and a couple of others) and the culture is leaning heavily on cars. Then there is the freedom that comes with state-dependent lack of periodical technical inspections…
      But I fully understand the appeal of the exotic. I mean, how many of us have mentioned a desire to at least try and drive some Eastern European "classic"? Most of them are just not…exciting, really. Rarity is a bit like beer goggles.

  2. engineerd™ Avatar

    Now that the pleasantries are over, I must fully disagree. As a red-blooded American, I want…nay, have the RIGHT…to unrealistically desire any vehicle offered elsewhere in the world and disregard reality.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      This is what is known in two-wheeled circles as "Seca 650 Syndrome."

      1. Johnny Ro Avatar
        Johnny Ro

        ??? Seca 650??
        So what big deal, buckaroo. They were easy to find. Even I had one. In LI, NY. Back in the Day. Mine was the full star wars styled turbo. Paid somewhere in the low $1's for it. Not rare when they were extant.
        Try Kawasaki KLE 500 as an unrealistic want for a stateside rider. Better yet, post on that bike next week?

        1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
          Peter Tanshanomi

          The original Seca 650 was not sold in the United States its first year of production. Yamaha did not think it would sell well. Americans threw a big hissy fit over it, writing letters and such. So, Yamaha imported it…and they all collected dust in warehouses for several years until Yamaha blew them out below cost.

  3. Barry Avatar

    The problem with this theory is of course that they would never sell a domestic brazilian market pickup in north america. If the powers that be came to their senses and decided to sell a pickup truck that was not the size of a house, they would wait untill the next redesign and bring everything up to world standards including fitting a more powerful engine from their parts bin as they always have in the past. If these were assembled in south america they could be sold for a very reasonable price in north america.
    Problem is americans buy things by the foot, and the over sizde house on wheels is the U.S. manufactures biggest cash cow, whether you need/want it or not.
    Having done renos forever I can assure you that the vast majority of things that require pickups can be done with something far smaller than a full size american pickup. I drove a VW Rabbit pickup for 15 years and it did it all. Who cares if a sheet of plywood hangs out over the tail gate a bit?
    I resto-modded my 1980 VW pickup with a two litre 16 valve engine, all 16v Scirocco parts bin stuff. It handled like a sports car, was frighteningly fast, and got incredible gas milage. This is what is desperately missing in north america. As long as the manipulative chicken tax is in effect it will mean no small pickup trucks for the people.

  4. Mister Serling Avatar
    Mister Serling

    That new Frontier had better be good, then. I prefer my small tucks to be new.

  5. Rover_1 Avatar

    And the big manufacturers make other good vehicles that the US doesn't see. Maybe for cost reasons. Maybe because of 'Not invented here' syndrome, which is strong at Ford. The following are NCAP 5 star, and related to vehicles sold in the US. None are FWD only.
    The new biggest selling vehicle in NZ, (replacing 35 years of the Toyota Hilux Ute.)
    Ford Ranger ute
    <img src="; width="600">
    and it's sibling the Ranger Everest SUV, due soon.
    <img src="; width="600">
    Another separate chassis, pick-up based SUV
    GM's Colorado Seven sold here with Holden badging
    <img src="$file/Holden_Colorado_7_large.jpg?OpenElement"width="600"&gt;
    And the current two door version of the Chevrolet SS, the Lumina SS Ute( i.e. Holden)
    and an ability demonstration
    <img src="; width="600">
    <img src="; width="650">

    1. ptschett Avatar

      I'm going to guess the SUVs are too close to the existing Explorer and Traverse to fit into the US lineups. Ford has said that the global Ranger is close enough to the F-150 that they don't think they can effectively market it in the US, and Thailand manufacture means it gets the chicken tax; I'm assuming the chicken tax also applies to the Holden Ute.

    2. Scout_dude Avatar

      The Global Ranger WAS designed in the US to be the F100. The CAD monkeys in Australia like to claim that they designed it but designing is setting the specs and dimensions not converting that into CAD designs.

  6. Batshitbox Avatar

    I'm constantly amazed at what passes for a 1/2 ton pickup these days. Sitting in my nearly 25 year old GMC C1500 I have to crane my neck all the way back to see up to a badge that reads "F-150". Then there's these things…
    <img src="; width=450>
    …which have become de rigueur on all the crew cab trucks everybody is buying; because the bed is now as short on a 1/2 ton pickup as it is on one of these Brazilian Utes.
    I live in fear of some aerosol canister rolling out of one of these and denting my hood!

    1. 7FIAT's Later Avatar
      7FIAT's Later

      No kidding about the size of trucks, I drive my trusty old 73 F-250 Ranger XLT/Camper Special into town and park at Home Depot and it looks like a mini-truck compared to the new ones. My old truck will haul or pull anything I have ever asked of it, not really sure how to explain the size difference except maybe the old myth is true and there is some compensation going on. LOL

  7. Rover_1 Avatar

    Perhaps of interest to the Hooniverseriat….
    Another South American ute wasn't exported either.
    The Argentinian Mercedes Benz 220D Utility
    <img src="; width="500">
    <img src="; width="500">
    <img src="; width="500">
    And maybe Fiatsler could reinstate the other 500s like the Ziba utility by Ghia.
    How hard could it be?
    <img src="–DcGvCX6j–/19fz30a154h9cjpg.jpg"width="500"&gt;
    <img src=""width="500"&gt;

    1. Slow_Joe_Crow Avatar

      So want, as a matched set with the 500 in the Merc's bed like a Matryoshka doll

  8. Jofes01 Avatar

    Welcome, I am really looking forward to this series! I know all to little of the South American car market.
    Just one friendly advice for a new writer: You are responding to our thoughts on cars and you are questioning them with excellent logic and substantial arguments. Such counter-happiness- and naivety-behavior might not go down well here…

  9. Maymar Avatar

    I find my 100hp subcompact a little sluggish with 4 people board – I can only assume with an extra ton of weight on board, there'd be nothing but sound and fury, signifying nothing. On the other hand, I imagine the official ratings would be neutered for the North American market, some combination of extremely active lawyers, and hoping to give advantage to larger, more profitable vehicles.
    On the other hand, with the pricing compared to the Cruz, Captiva (which is close enough to the Equinox for comparative purposes), and Tracker (Trax in Canada), I'd guess that theoretically, these trucks would start around $10-12k for the North American market (FWIW, the Nissan Micra/March seems to be around 39k reals just like these,and starts at $10k here as well), although as mentioned, the federalization would be an issue, as there's a much smaller market for vehicles lacking a back seat.
    That said, I have no particular lust for these, at least until the supply of Ford Rangers runs dry.

    1. wunno sev Avatar
      wunno sev

      *signifying a vaporized clutch
      i'm with you on this – for as much as we all say we love utes, i don't think anyone in the USA would buy one.
      i don't say i love utes, btw. i think they're ugly. but that's me.

  10. craigsu Avatar

    I would happily entertain the purchase of a VW Amarok if they were offered here in the US. I saw these all over Central America last year and was very impressed.
    <img src="; width="600">

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Those would be SO expensive here

      1. engineerd™ Avatar

        I've heard in the neighborhood of $40k thrown around. Not bad when you're talking about an upscale full size (Fi15s and Silverados can push into the $50k range these days), but it's not.

        1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
          Jeff Glucker

          I know the dollars don't translate exactly… but I saw one in a showroom in Germany, fully loaded TDI, and it was something like 55k Euros. Maybe more actually.

  11. ptschett Avatar

    I like a medium sized pickup, and think torque multiplication in the engine/transmission coupling can be practical in some applications. So, I'd rather have this.
    <img src="; width="500"/>
    …oh wait, I already do (more or less.)
    <img src="; width="500"/>

  12. eggsalad Avatar

    " The truck already costs $15,000 as-is in Brazil, then you have to import it to the U.S which, by itself will add 25% to the price thanks to the all-powerful and all-annoying Chicken tax."
    Okay, so importation from Brazil is out. But the same truck is built/sold in Mexico as the Chevrolet Tornado. As Mexico is a NAFTA nation, no chicken tax, and the Tornado starts under USD$15000.

  13. Daniel Avatar

    Ok, i get that the US market don't need this kind of car, but look at this: It's a 1.6 16v engine, with 120hp, dual cab, with lot of gizmos: Sure, it's costs more, but it's the kind of product they would sell in the US, not the base line product.
    <img src="×400/; width="600">
    Look at this: it's the competitor from FIAT, the Strada. 1.8 16v engine with 132 horses and locked diff as a optional:
    <img src="; width="600">
    I believe this is the kind of product the US would have, for less than 20K, because, you know, USA

  14. Daniel Avatar

    by the way, the new chevy Montana, only have the 1.4 8v engine, flex fueled engine with 102 horses. The 1.8 8v engine is no more.

  15. mallthus Avatar

    Although I concur with the gist of this article, I must disagree on the cost issue.
    Yes, the truck may well be $15k, as sold, in Brazil. That's not its cost though.
    Let's lead with taxes. I'm not talking about the relatively reasonable IPVA, an annual tax of about 2-4%/year. That's not too far off local vehicle property taxes in New England. I'm really focusing on the pre-loaded taxes, with add about 30% to the MSRP for Brazilian built new vehicles. Compare that to the 7% average for the US.
    $15,000 = $11,500
    Now we're going to compare the profit margins for manufacturers between vehicles sold in the US and in Brazil. In the US, automakers pocket about 3% of the MSRP. In Brazil, that number is 10%. Why? Because they can.
    $11,500 = $10,500
    So, now we can add back in the cost of a larger engine, bigger airbags and a safer spaceframe. All of those will cost $0.
    Why $0?
    Because of economies of scale, a DOHC Ecotec is going to be pretty much the same cost as the SOHC Ecotec used in the Montana (which was chosen not because it was cheap, but because it met a displacement target driven by tax structures).
    Same thing with the bigger airbags. The difference in cost is pennies. Maybe dollars, but certainly less than $100.
    Finally, the spaceframe costs are about engineering and timelines more than metallurgy. These vehicles have been designed, first and foremost, as cars. The pickup versions were designed as an afterthought for a market where their crash performance wasn't market critical. Design them properly as part of the initial design stage and this can be avoided. Certainly, such a truck wouldn't come to the US market until a next generation anyway, so that's easy enough.
    So, lux it up a bit and you're out the door for under $20k, which will still undercut all other comers.

  16. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    I have no desire for a little bitty pickup, but car-based? You bet!
    Sign me up for one of these:
    <img src="; width="400">
    Or, ooooh, even better!!!!
    <img src="; width="400">
    This, though…I want to do this to a 1995 Fleetwood Bro-ham 'family car':
    <img src="; width="400">

    1. Antonio Cuellar Avatar
      Antonio Cuellar

      That two door Cadillac pickup, bliss!

    2. Vairship Avatar

      Wouldn't you prefer a Brigham Brougham? <img src="; width=600> Source: <a href="” target=”_blank”>

      1. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
        C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        I really would like a Crewman Cross8.
        The B-body Sedan DeVille is a bit much…though I still would rather have a front and rear seat with a pickup bed…yet not have a truck.
        Though, the new V6 diesel Dodge Ram may change my mind, once I see if they depreciate well enough for reasonable used acquisition in several years.
        I prefer land yachts of the non-truck kind, thanks.

        1. Vairship Avatar

          A Subaru Baja/Chevy Avalanche style 4-seat version of that Cadillac flowercaramino would be dreamy…

  17. HycoSpeed Avatar

    Welcome to Hooniverse!! I am excited to see what you can share with us from your exotic land of mystery!
    As to the points you address above, in regard to American access to said autos–
    <img src="; width=400">
    But seriously, I feel some of these issues could certainly be overcome, and bring these utes to America. The real kicker I think in everything, that you mention briefly, is the upsizing of the Colorado. The mid-size truck segment basically doesn't exist as far as American companies are concerned, and forget about mini trucks.
    And for why make the Colorado larger? Doesn't that just cut into sales of the full size trucks? Why not make it definitively segmented, smaller trucks with less features, but still functional utility; then you move up the truck buying chain, bigger trucks, more options, the old brand hierarchy idea, but with truck models.

  18. Skink Avatar

    Brazilian = no hair down there. (Motor, frame). What did you think I meant?

  19. tonicmole Avatar

    On the other hand, a Holden Ute with its 6.2L V8 has the performance and options, but would easily have a $45,000, to $50,000 price tag. Honestly it’d be cheaper to update an 86 El Camino than import its modern equivelant.