Like the state-of-the-art trains it manufactures, Bombardier’s timing is impeccable. When the Canadian-based multinational decided to set down roots in Brazil, it could have had little inkling that the public sector would soon be planning to embark upon a major resurrection and revamping of the nation’s once ubiquitous, now largely abandoned and/or woefully inadequate railway systems by adding 10,000 km of new rails to the 30,000 km already in existence.
A POTENTIAL GOLD MINE
Bombardier had no presence whatsoever in Brazil before 2001, the year in which it acquired ADTranz, an industry leader specializing in rail car manufacture, train maintenance and signaling systems that had a manufacturing plant in the town of Hortolândia, São Paulo. Aside from taking over ADTranz’ operations, Bombardier immediately set to work restructuring the company to take on new projects and preparing it for future growth.
“We spent our first few years in Brazil in a preparatory stage, taking stock of the type of market that Brazil represents” confesses Luis Ramos, Bombardier Transportation’s corporate commercial director for South America, India, and Portugal. As it “took stock”, the company was thrilled to discover that, as a result of a booming economy and a recent and renewed government interest in railways as a transportation solution of the future, the Brazilian market represented an unexpected potential gold mine.
Beginning two years ago, both the federal government and governments of major cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, began investing in earnest in new train projects. “The public sector has brought to the table a lot of new and interesting opportunities,” admits Ramos. “We’ve been busy structuring ourselves – and our site, which has lots of room for us to expand – in order to participate in some of them.”
Indeed, in June 2009, Bombardier Transportation Brasil landed its first major project: the manufacture of 26 commuter trains for the city of São Paulo commissioned by the CPTM (Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos), a company owned by the state of São Paulo’s transport ministry. In Hortolândia, where it currently employs 200 people, Bombardier has already assembled a group of engineers to work specifically on this project. It intends to repeat this strategy in the future; creating other specialized groups of collaborators as further opportunities crop up.
Already, there are many such opportunities on the horizon. The most promising include the creation of a high-speed railway that will link the country’s two major metropolises, Rio and São Paulo, as well as the building and expansion of metros and monorails for Brazil’s major capitals. In recent years, rampant growth of urban areas coupled with an unprecedented rise in automobile sales (spurred on by the increased purchasing power of lower-income Brazilians) has left many Brazilian cities confronted with critical traffic problems and an urgent need for alternative transportation systems. Says Ramos enthusiastically: “As the Number One supplier of railways systems and equipment in the world – (there are currently 100,000 Bombardier-built trains running on tracks around the globe) – we’re eager to deploy the full scope of our activities and looking forward to introducing new products to Brazil.”
Among the vanguard innovations that Bombardier is eager to bring to Brazil are its revolutionary ECO4 technologies. Easily customized to any fleet, ECO4’s various energy-saving solutions embrace myriad systems and components, enabling trains to reduce energy use by up to 50 percent while minimizing CO2 emissions. For example, the MITRAC Energy Saver features ultracapacitors that accumulate energy released each time a train brakes, and subsequently
allocate it to the motors when the train accelerates, adding extra power while reducing energy usage, emissions, and costs. There is also the ThermoEfficient Climatisation System. Combining on a sensor system that adjusts the level of air conditioning in a car relative to passenger occupancy and a recycling process that uses up to 80 percent of the energy in the exhaust air to pre-heat or pre-cool fresh air, this intelligent air condition system results in a 30 percent reduction of energy.
“Such technologies are part of our ongoing commitment to addressing issues that are most relevant for train operators,” explains Ramos. “What’s important to them are trains that are fully reliable and always available, that use less energy and cost less to maintain.”
Meanwhile, Bombardier is highly attentive to what passengers want as well. Among the major emerging trends that is proving to be a significant factor in rider loyalty is aesthetics. “Passengers used to be happy simply going from A to B – but not anymore” declares Ramos. “Today, they want to go from A to B in comfort and style; they need to feel attracted by a transportation system.”
“Recently, we replaced the streetcars in Milan with highly advanced trams and immediately ridership grew by 14 percent. The attractiveness of equipment really influences behavior,” emphasizes Ramos. “Although this might seem strange to say about Brazil (much of whose urban transportation equipment is functional, but quite basic), this country is no different. On the contrary, as a people Brazilians possess a great sensitivity for beautiful things.”
A GLOBAL FOOTPRINT
As for catering to other distinctive traits that potentially differentiate the Brazilian market, Bombardier believes it has just as much experience – if not more – than its major competitors in the field. Spain’s CAF and France’s Alstom (currently the market leader), both of which have long been established in Brazil. (In terms of global ranking, Bombardier is No. 1, followed by Altstom and Siemens; CAF’s share of the international market being quite small). For Bombardier, Brazil is no different from other markets in which it operates where temperatures and humidity are high. In fact, the company is used to supplying products to many places, such as India, that have far more aggressive environments and many more passengers. The knowhow acquired in such markets has already proved to be an important advantage for the company in Brazil.
“Bombardier has a global footprint; it can operate anywhere in the world in a flexible manner,” declares Ramos. “We manufacture our products locally, but we draw on expertise acquired over the course of many projects, from country to country, from city to city. Over time, this has provided us with a great understanding of local realities, which – along with a respect for diversity and an emphasis on cutting-edge technology – constitute our three greatest strengths.”
“Although Bombardier Transportation is headquartered in Berlin, our business philosophy draws on values that are very Canadian, such as diversity and multiculturalism. These are very much reflected in the way we run this company. Of course, we can also talk about the quality of our products… quite simply, we make trains that just don’t stop.”