DETROIT — Look for General Motors to develop more products for North America in Brazil.
This year GM spent $500 million on its Brazilian unit to develop small cars and to expand its product development center there. GM also designated Brazil as its lead center for designing mid-sized trucks.
The cars and mid-sized trucks are intended for emerging markets, but that could change soon.
"GM will play that global engineering talent as it needs it, and it recognizes the huge amount of talent we have," Maureen Kempston Darkes, GM's group vice president and president of Latin America, Africa and Middle East, said in an interview.
"When you've been designated the lead of mid-sized trucks, that also opens up new and important opportunities, so watch for that to come."
Darkes said the engineering center in Brazil is very important to GM.
"It's been designated as one of the six global engineering centers," she said.
"We are doing global product portfolios using the GM engineers and facilities, so we will continue to play a very important role."
GM's design studios in South Korea have had a heavy influence on GM vehicles, such as the Chevrolet minicar based on the Beat concept car.
GM plans to begin selling that vehicle overseas in mid-2009 and is considering selling it in the United States.
When asked whether Brazil's design and engineering center might have the same impact on North American vehicle development, Darkes said: "No reason why they couldn't. Right now, their plate is full doing trucks and small cars. But for certain they have that capability."
Vehicle sales in Brazil and Argentina are set to end the year at record levels. Darkes said GM likely will boost production in the region next year.