The Detroit Free Press reports the new generation of Brazil-built cars are to blame for the country's high death rate. Thanks to a booming middle class, Brazil is the fourth-largest vehicle market in the world, but four of the country's best-selling models have failed independent crash tests. Couple those machines with the country's notoriously dangerous roads and weather, and Brazil winds up with a traffic death rate nearly four times that of the US when weighted for the disparity in the size of both driving populations.
Automakers, meanwhile, say their products meet or exceed Brazil's safety laws – starting next year, manufacturers will be required to install front airbags and anti-lock brakes. Activists, meanwhile, say those changes aren't enough to make a meaningful impact on the country's death toll. Independent testing found that four of the country's top-selling cars from brands like General Motors, Volkswagen and Fiat received a lowly one-star crash rating.
Compounding the issue is the fact that manufacturers make more money on less safe, inexpensive Brazilian-made cars. The Detroit Free Press reports companies earn a 10-percent profit on vehicles built in Brazil compared to three percent from US-built models and an average of five percent from machines assembled elsewhere. Vehicles imported from other markets are more likely to have safety equipment that meets more stringent standards.