Category Archives: Brazil

Who has the No 1 Auto Classified Website in the World?

What if I said to you that the number 1 online automotive vertical website in the world in October 2016 was in Switzerland?

I can, for the first time, compare sites from different countries on the same measures…..based on my traffic health algorithm on 72 websites in 38 different countries

It is not unusual for us to visit a new country and have 3 players swear they are number 1 in online auto classifieds.

One points to traffic, another to inventory and another to dealers (who needs revenue and profit anyway?).

At the end of the day……making money has to be the overriding measurement

Everyone wants to be number 1 and it seems this is especially so in the online world where to claim yourself as the number 1 player in your niche is vital for advertisers, investors, etc.
This is hard enough to decipher within each country so how do we determine what automotive vertical website is the number 1 site globally?

From an online automotive vertical aspect, I see businesses claim number 1 in their country/region based on anything they can measure has them in front – visits, unique visitors, inventory count, dealer count – and the numbers can be near on impossible to test from outside the business.

You can’t do it by visits, inventory or dealers because a website operates in a country that has a large population with a huge car market will naturally have more visits, inventory and dealers – this does not make them the number 1 in the world.

I’ve wrestled with this for some time as carsales looks to strategically partner with more online automotive businesses around the world and I look at peers, competitors and targets so I’ve come up with a measure that for the first time doesn’t care how many visits, inventory or dealers are on the site.
So getting back to who is number 1, how’d I come to this conclusion and what exactly is number 1 in?

What I’ve done is created an index using a weighted algorithm for each automotive website around the world based on things that measure the health and stability of their traffic, namely user engagement and traffic sources. For me these metrics can tell you a lot about the online business and for the first time, I can measure websites from country to country on like for like data in order to get a picture of their real position in the market.

Like everything in online, one form of measurement doesn’t tell you the whole story but this index allows me to rank every website around the world to get an accurate picture of their traffic health irrespective of their traffic volume (although to get an “official” index a website must have over 100,000 publicly measurable monthly visits; this number is arbitrary).
This means I can, for the first time, compare sites from different countries on the same measures. Traffic health should be pretty basic and each component would have individual focus within each business. Product teams would be all over user engagement metrics; SEO experts would be working to ensure the long tail of each website is indexable; and SEM spend would be closely monitored to ensure the right spend is getting the right results.

It’s pretty easy to correlate a high SEM spend, low direct traffic and a high bounce rate and what it means – poor traffic health – but as with most metrics to measure a number 1, they usually only tell part of the story.

In any case, based on my traffic health algorithm on 72 websites in 38 different countries, the top automotive vertical website in October 2016 was (Switzerland) and businesses that are part of the carsales network including (South Korea), (Brazil) and (Chile) are in the top 5 (the website rounding out the top 5 was in Germany).

Each of these websites has very strong user engagement metrics and extremely healthy, sustainable traffic sources.
It’s interesting that some countries and in fact continents have common traits in user engagement and/or traffic sources that flow through the websites.

The regional Brazilian website indexes do not surprise me given the regional focus in Brazil where dealers and consumers alike are somewhat parochial to regional automotive websites resulting in high user engagement and positive traffic sources which sees websites that are now part of the Webmotors network high up in this indexing including,, and
Anyway, my indexing algorithm gives me a great picture of where our peers, competitors, targets and carsales network sites are at around the world irrespective of the traffic they claim, inventory or dealer count.

At the end of the day, all of these websites are businesses and we all know that, as my esteemed former colleague used to remind me, “you can’t bank wank” – in other words, making money has to be the overriding measurement.

Danger Doing Business in Brazil? Pfft!

Embarrassingly, I’d never heard of São Paulo before carsales started to talk to Santander about its Webmotors business just a few years back.

Not many people in Australia know anything about São Paulo as I think when most people in Australia think of Brazil they think of Carnival in Rio, the Amazon jungle and lots of danger.

The danger part is what I get asked about the most each time I visit our Webmotors business.
This is especially so when articles like naming world’s most dangerous cities in a article on 28 January 2016 in which Brazil had 21 of the top 50 named and Latin America 41 of the 50 (

São Paulo wasn’t on the list but when you have a city like São Paulo with 23m people (in the greater area) of which a great percentage are poor, there is going to be a lot of crime and this makes it dangerous; everyone I deal with in the city tell me this. It is not uncommon for people to be robbed at gun point or kidnapped.
I will say straight up that in over fifteen business visits there over the past three plus years, I am yet to feel threatened (touch wood). In saying this, I make a point of not putting myself in possible positions with the bulk of my time split between the hotel, office and with local work colleagues.

From a business visitor aspect, here’s two examples of differences between São Paulo and Australia’s largest cities:

1 Road Rage
Whilst the most common after market accessory for cars is bullet proof glass and any medium to high end car is fully bullet proof, combined with horrendous and chaotic traffic with weaving drivers (especially motorbikes), in all my visits to São Paulo road rage just isn’t part of the scene. Merging is just part of what they have to do to get around. Try merging into Punt Rd on any given weekday and you’ll probably see some road rage and almost without exception, just plain ignorance and arrogance that can certainly turn dangerous!
2 Celebration Time
I often visit the bar and restaurant neighborhood of Vila Madelena in São Paulo with the Webmotors team which can see thousands of people in the dozens of establishments drinking in the streets from early afternoon through to late at night and I am yet to witness one bit of aggression despite drinking allowed in public, bottled beverages are common on the street and the usual bumping into randoms in large crowds that you see everywhere. Imagine in Australia if alcohol could be purchased from street vendors in bottles and you couldn’t help but run into crowds? There’s a reason alcohol is barred in public and bottles are barred in most bars here – we are a nation of cashed up bogans (generalisation I know but a somewhat harsh reality).
The poor usually have nothing to lose so for this reason the danger is somewhat harsher than drunk, cashed up bogans king hitting someone during a big night out or getting upset because you had the nerve to merge into “their” lane.

We Australians could certainly learn a thing or two on these things from São Paulo and Brazil in general.

“Don’t Waze and Drive” – Try THAT in São Paulo!

Can you name an app service that is used by virtually everyone who has a smartphone in Australia or even Melbourne?

I can’t. Probably the closest would be Facebook and even then I know plenty of people with smartphones who refuse to partake in any form of social media.

Sure virtually every teenager in Australia (it seems) is using Instagram and/or Snapchat as their communication and social acceptance tool but how many over 40-odds that you know use Snapchat on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis?

For me the smartphone is great for bringing phone, messaging (iMessage is the choice mode), email and access to news and social tools but I can’t name an app that isn’t a core part of the smartphone that I rely on on a daily basis.
Then we look at Brazil and in particular São Paulo where I have spent a lot of time over the past few years and I have not been in a private car, taxi or Uber where the driver hasn’t been using Waze for directions.

Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app which enables you to join other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, saving everyone time and money on their daily commute.

In a city like São Paulo it is absolutely vital and could be the difference between a 20 minute trip to an hour trip, every day!
Waze is useful in Melbourne but not a necessity. I use it (when I remember) to see how long it is going take me to get him from work. Sometimes if it gives me bad news I stay a little longer until it clears a bit. It is very accurate even though not widely used in Australia.

The other app that is used by virtually everyone in Brazil, Chile and Mexico (the three countries I have spent most of the time in that part of the world) is WhatsApp.

WhatsApp is used for personal and business by all ages; it is amazing that an independent app can be the default phone and messaging application by hundreds of millions of people.

It makes sense though as WhatsApp is available on iPhone and Android whereas iMessage isn’t and SMS isn’t consumed in your data charge.
It is also equally amazing to my friends in Brazil when I say I don’t use Whatsapp with my Australian friends. “But how do you communicate?”, they would ask.

Similar response to the news that we don’t rely on Waze. “That’s crazy, I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere without Waze”, they say.

Sure we are tech savvy in Australia and the younger generation coming through are more and more living their lives through their phones but I am yet to see the reliance by virtually all ages on a Waze or WhatsApp in Australia like it is in Latin America.

Then again I just have to think how my boys used their phones to know that it isn’t far away or maybe it is here and I just don’t know it.

They would argue they can’t live without Snapchat today but that’s another matter.

Achieving Economies of Scale

carsales push into the Spanish speaking Latin America countries of Mexico and Chile enables it to get achieve economies of scale in technology and other areas of its business.

The push has been on to deliver our web site platform and dealer applications that are successful in Australia, through Latin America with the specific goal of being able to “Spanishise” (probably a stretch to give it a word) the platform and get multiple uses from it, thus achieving economies of scale.
We have learnt, however, that achieving economies of scale can sometimes be a false economy if not done with a complete appreciation of all the factors in the new geographical location you are entering. Just picking something up and dropping it in another country will not necessarily work.

carsales and were keen to give Webmotors the “carsales feel” so in addition to adding the Ryvuss search engine, the three main pages being the Home page, Search Results page and Vehicle Details page were all redesigned using the carsales template.

When the development was complete we were all very excited to launch the new site but it didn’t take us long to realise that we had misjudged the Brazilian users. There were a few things they had on the old Webmotors site that they felt were super important in buying a car and were not backwards in coming forwards to tell us about it.
Quite a few subtle changes were required to meet the expectations of the local users. This was our first lesson that picking up exactly what works in one country will necessarily be the optimum solution in another country.

What about regions within a country? Webmotors made two acquisitions of leading regional automotive web sites shortly after we invested in the business. The first was which was the number 1 player in the North East of Brazil. The second was which was the number 1 player in the Sao Paulo country side.
The plan was a simple one – let’s get some quick wins by using the Webmotors platform to drive each of the new websites. Each website would take on the same look and feel (with it’s own colours and logos) and same features. This would enable us to achieve economies of scale in maintaining one Brazilian wide platform down the track.

In both Meurcarango and Compreauto we quickly realized that the response from the user base within each region was similar to what we experienced with the Webmotors site.
So while we won’t get economies of scale by simply putting a Spanish version of what we have in Australia, we will get enormous benefits through economies of scale across the platform driving the websites and the dealer applications. An example of where we are already achieving this is with our Ryvuss search engine which is already in use by Webmotors and in South Korea.

Our dealer applications like Autogate is where we will see great benefits through “Spanishisation” as they are not as open to user nuances by country or region as a consumer facing website is. This is where we expect to get even bigger benefits from working on the one global platform.

All in all carsales is in a great position of leveraging from proven IP and a technology base that can move the needle in these countries. I can’t wait to see and benefiting from this.

A Unique Search Filter in Brazil

Webmotors‘ cars for sale search has a filter for bullet proof cars. To us at carsales, this is just one example as to why our global platform needs to accommodate nuances of local markets. After all, if we were based in Alaska and were moving globally to Australia, air conditioning may be a search filter that would need adding.

It makes sense in Brazil because there is a reason bullet proof glass is a must have new car after sale accessory – at some point it will most probably be needed.
Just before the Rio Olympics news came through about a Russian diplomat being the victim of a robbery where two guys on a motorbike pulled up beside his car, smashed his window and demanded his watch; a gun was pulled by one of the robbers, the Russian diplomat pulled the robber into the car, took his gun and shot him.

For us in Australia it is an amazing story. I’ve been traveling to Brazil for carsales and our Webmotors business very regularly over the past 3 years and unfortunately I don’t find it amazing; “only in Brazil” as Fernanda from Webmotors would say.
You learn very quickly that in traffic (and believe me in São Paulo there is plenty of it!) you do not sit there with your window down waiting for someone to come and relieve you of some valuable items.

Take a story that happened to one our Webmotors’ team members which is not an uncommon one). He was sitting in São Paulo traffic waiting for the lights to change when a motorbike pulled up with two guys on it. The passenger uses the handle of a pistol to bang on the driver side window to check if it was normal glass or bullet proof glass. It was bullet proof – pretty easy to tell the difference with the butt of a pistol – so they move on to test another car.
He wasn’t so lucky the next time however when he had a flat tyre and was changing it on the side of the road. Two guys came up casually, waited for him to finish changing the tyre, produced a gun and drove off with car. Bullet proof glass doesn’t help when you aren’t in the car I suppose.

A lot of more expensive cars go an extra step and are fully armored. It is an after market item that has to be considered and factored into the price of driving a nice car.

I’m sure every country is different when it comes to options required in cars and why Brazil be any different!

A Key Component of an Acquisition

I’m a firm believer that in general, “people do business with people they like“. I know there are exceptions but as a rule I stand by this.

In order to like someone in a business sense does not mean you need to be mates; there needs to be a mutual respect between each other that business will be conducted in a manner that you both expect.

When carsales looks at an international acquisition target, local management is a key component of the decision making process. Very early on in the process I like to understand what the local management structure is going to look like and ascertain if there will be issues from day 1 after closing.

People do business with people they like” takes on an extra meaning when the management you are relying on to run the day to day operations of a business you have invested in is on the other side of the world. A true mutual respect as people first is important in this.
This is why dealing with and forging close relationships with local management is a key component as a strategic investor. The structure of our partners in our 4 international acquisitions ( in Brazil, in South Korea, in Mexico & in Chile) are somewhat different but the relationships we have/are building are very similar. In each business we are very close to the executive management; talking on an almost daily basis and sharing more than just business.

When we started Digital Motorworks, very early on we did some business with News Limited’s then new digital arm called News Interactive (News Digital Media) for their online jobs platform Careerone. We saw our personal relationships (we didn’t know them beforehand) as important and worked hard on it. Our work with Careerone expanded (and then exploded) and before we knew we were performing the same services to The Times of London (News International) which then spread by recommendation to TES Education and Emap (also both in the UK). When News were looking at starting an online automotive platform they came to DMi first.
Yes DMi had some nice technology that served their needs but I have no doubt the relationships we formed within News Interactive were the driving force behind establishing our brand within their business.

Even internally, it is hard having a workable business relationship with someone you simply do not like, trust and/or respect.

People do business with people they like” can take on a number of meanings. It may be “just business” but business involves people and where people are concerned, it is better to like people than not.

Who Visits Car Classifieds Websites?

The vast majority of the millions of people who visit each month are looking to buy a car. As do the millions visiting our websites around the world in Brazil (,Mexico (, Chile ( and South Korea(

Similarly, when a person makes the effort to fill in an enquiry form to send a dealer, they are in the process of buying a car.

I’m being a little flippant with these statements because we see the evidence every day and somehow it is missed in practice.

Take the following quiz (based on real data from carsales):
Dealer A and Dealer B are both franchised car dealers located in the same city and each stocks between 40-50 used cars. Dealer A consistently sells a car every 4 leads they receive while Dealer B sells a car every 9 leads.

Now select your answer:
a) Dealer A is receiving better quality leads than Dealer B
b) Dealer A has more desirable stock than Dealer B
c) Dealer A treats every lead as an opportunity to sell a car

If you answered c) you would be correct. Dealer A gets onto every lead quickly, works them hard and gets a great result. More often than not the buyer doesn’t even purchase the car they required on but if the lead is worked like every sales lead should, it will one of the dealer’s cars not a competitors.

It is not surprising that over 40% of the people sending leads to Dealer B actually purchase a car from another Dealer – most probably Dealer A.

Dealer B thinks that most of the leads from online are “tyre kickers” and as such gets on to some but doesn’t pursue others. We know this from consumer feedback that is provided back after an enquiry is made.

We see the same things in Brazil. Recently our Webmotors Dealer Director visited a dealer in São Paulo who said that they weren’t happy with the quality of leads coming from Webmotors.

Our Webmotors guy asked him for some examples so the dealer presented him with three leads that were “rubbish”. Our guy asked the dealer if he could follow them up then and there, in front of the dealer and on behalf of the dealer. The result – two appointments for the dealer and the other had just bought from another dealer! So much for “rubbish” leads.

What was found (and acknowledged) was that the dealer didn’t value a lead from any online source like he did a walk-in or phone call. With a little education the dealer now understands the value of Webmotors as a valuable car buying channel.,,,, and other leading auto classified sites around the world invest millions of dollars to bring car buyers to dealers and it is in their interest to keep the quality intact – I can’t see how that is a bad thing.

What Does Brazil Know That We Don’t?


carsales acquisition of Stratton Finance last year caught a few people by surprise as they thought it was outside of our core offering. What makes it more interesting is that in Brazil, the three leading automotive vertical websites are owned by banks. More on that shortly.

An automotive portal’s core value proposition is as a channel between buyer and seller. For dealers and private sellers it is a buying channel where buyers can come to the one place, find the car of their dreams (or needs) and deliver leads to the seller, thus providing them with the opportunity to sell their car.

As around 50% of used car sales are financed, it makes sense that at the time of enquiring about a car on carsales, the buyer can/will/does also enquire on the best finance to purchase the car.
Stratton had been a carsales display advertising client for over 10 years as they looked to capture these finance enquiries so it made sense for carsales and Stratton to get closer and maximise the finance lead generation opportunities.

Just to be clear here, the Stratton Finance brand and integration is ONLY placed against private seller cars on carsales, NEVER on dealer’s cars. In fact, carsales has NEVER placed a finance advertisement on a dealer car as dealer’s offer their own finance to their buyers and we do not want to diminish this opportunity for them.
The finance model and automotive portals is nothing new in Australia. In 2000 ANZ Bank’s Esanda Auto Finance started an automotive portal called in an attempt to be a finance lead channel. In the same year, St George Bank formed a strategic partnership with to launch in Australia and try to replicate what was a successful model in the US. By 2002 both were gone with millions of dollars lost.

carsales had also tried its hand of monetising finance leads long before the Stratton investment with the creation of a business unit called Click For Finance 7-8 years ago. This effort didn’t last long either.
20160504_Webmotors2007, 2007, shortly before the Santander acquisition

Back to Brazil.
We have looked at automotive portals around the world and I am yet to find any that are owned by banks, except in Brazil, where the three leading players are owned by banks:

1. Webmotors has Banco Santander as the controlling shareholder (with 70% and carsales 30%) after it acquired ABN Amro Bank in 2007 (ABN Amro had acquired Webmotors in 2002);

2. iCarros is owned by Itau Bank; and

3. Meucarronova is owned by BV Financeira

Do they know something others around the world don’t? No, I think that since Webmotors came to Santander through a bank acquisition and they kept hold of it, the other two banks took opportunities to follow suit.

As a side here, the founder of Webmotors also founded iCarros after he sold Webmotors to ABN Amro Bank so he followed a successful path for him in selling iCarros to Itau. “Only in Brazil” as my friend Fernanda says to me, seemingly all the time.

I also think the concept of automotive portals being a legitimate finance lead channel is acknowledged everywhere but as Esanda and St George found out, it takes a little more than simply setting up a website. Even in Brazil where the three banks acquired the automotive portals and have owned them for a number of years, they are still yet to maximise the opportunity for finance origination (as opposed to finance leads).

This is where carsales is adding enormous strategic value to Santander as a strategic investor in Webmotors having the experience of trying a finance model internally years ago and now successfully integrating with Stratton.

It is only the start of the journey and should be a great ride!

Webmotors Spreads It’s Wings

20160419_BluCarros’s investment in Brazil, Webmotors, last week announced it was acquiring seven automotive websites – all of them market leaders in the South of Brazil – from RBS Group, a Brazilian media conglomerate, operating under the brand BuscaCarros.

This makes it the third acquisition of a regional online leader that Webmotors has made since carsales made its investment in July 2013 following Meucarango (North East Brazil) in 2013 and Compreauto (São José do Rio Preto, Sao Paulo and region) in 2014, both market leaders in their respective regions.

Brazil is very parochial to regional plays both from a dealer and consumer perspective so these acquisitions are important in establishing Webmotors as the clear number 1 automotive website group in Brazil.
Changing the brand in the local region is not in the plan as each brand we have acquired has enormous equity that we do not want to lose. The key to success for Webmotors is using our world class platform to provide dealers and consumers a great experience and ensuring we benefit from the economies of scale that are available.
BuscaCarros has online brands in the following locations: state of Santa Catarina (BluCarros), Porto Alegre (PoaCarros), Florianópolis (FloripaCarros), Joinville and region (JoinvilleCarros), Itajaí and region (ItajaíCarros), Alto Vale do Itajaí (RiodoSulCarros) and Criciuma and region (CriciúmaCarros).

6 Latin America Factors for has investments in online automotive businesses in the two largest economies in Latin America – and They both represent good value for future long term growth for yet they are very diverse in a number of ways.

I’m not trying to find a winner here…….it is just interesting to look at the dynamics of each business in comparison to the other in terms of country, city of origin, language, carsales involvement, partners and the positions they occupy in their respective markets.
1. Brazil vs Mexico – The key difference is the maturity of online automotive classifieds where Brazil is some way ahead of Mexico. Webmotors in Brazil, is now a relatively clear number 1 in the online automotive space with more traffic and over twice the number of vehicles online than it’s next auto vertical competitor. There is no real clear leader in Mexico with our business Soloautos on the road to staking a claim.

2. Sao Paulo vs Guadalaraja – Both businesses have strong positions in the cities they are based in and this goes someway to explaining why one is number 1 on a country basis and the other isn’t (just yet). Webmotors is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city with 11m people in the city region and over 21m people in the metropolitan region. Soloautos is based in Guaralajara which is Mexico’s second largest metropolitan area with ~4m people. It’s interesting how regionalised the online market can be in Latin America compared to Australia.
Sao Paulo, Brazil

3. Spanish vs Portuguese – I don’t speak either language (unfortunately); the real difference for carsales is that only Brazil speak Portuguese whereas all other countries in Latin America speak Spanish. This isn’t an issue technology wise as we are working with consumable API’s to give us economies of scale and we can get synergies at the product end where what we do in Mexico can be used in any other country in Latin America (i.e. Chile where we have just entered).

4. Control vs Minority – We have a 65% controlling stake in Soloautos and a 30% minority stake in Webmotors. This hasn’t altered the way we have worked with either business as a strategic partner. We don’t mind being a minority stakeholder as a starting point and as we put more IP in to drive the growth we’d like to see that change.
Guadalajara, Mexico

5. Large partner vs Individual partner – This is really the difference in governance. Our partner in Webmotors is Banco Santander who by virtue of being a bank, can bring some governance an online company wouldn’t normally see at Webmotors size. We have an individual partner in Soloautos which is quite the opposite. It is fair to say there are pros and cons both ways.

6. Market Leader vs Number 2/3 – We are a clear leader in Australia and South Korea whilst Webmotors has been able to gain a nice lead over the competition since we’ve been involved. It is a whole new game doing the chasing with Soloautos and it is a task that our team is really enjoying. The basics remain the same for both though so I will say we don’t mind where we are to start with as long as we know where we need to be.

One thing is for certain, we are loving working with the people from Webmotors and Soloautos!

5 Service Differences Between Sao Paulo And Melbourne

20160318_VilaOlimpiaOffices‘s investment in Webmotors invariably means business visits to São Paulo. From a business perspective São Paulo is not cheap but vital to Brazil as the business hub.

One the first things we had to do with Webmotors was give the company its own identity outside of Banco Santander which included having its own office space. Location is always important in a big city to ensure you can attract the best talent and this was a big factor in being based in Vila Olimpia. What struck me about looking around Sao Paulo at suitable office space is the extra services that ultimately drive up the cost of setting up (and visiting) for business.

Here’s 5 examples that are a little different to what we’re used to in Australia:

1. Office Buildings – All office buildings I have visited have an electronic swipe system with security guards manning the entry/exit points. For visitors, you must present photo id (and in some cases a photo taken) before a temporary swipe card is issued for your visit so every building has staff ready to process you. The other noticeable difference is the presence of cleaners, etc throughout the day. These costs add up.

2. Hotels – There just seems to be people everywhere no matter what time it is. Security at the front door then more as you come in and that is before you even get to the reception area.

Shell Service Station, Brazil

3. Service Stations – the good old days of the service station attendant is alive and well in Sao Paulo so you don’t have to leave your car to get your tank filled if you don’t want.

4. Valet Parking – Parking is tough in São Paulo so at most restaurants, bar precincts, shopping centers and hotels the best (or only) alternative is valet parking which just keeps adding to the expense.

Shopping Vila Olimpia, São Paulo

5. Shopping Centres – Armed guards at the front doors and people directing traffic at the entrance just to name two.

These extra services are a result of the extra security measures required and the need to provide some form of employment to the broad class of people. They need to be employed. The result is that no matter what the cost is, all of these extra services add up and someone has to pay for them. I guess it’s the end user which makes Sao Paulo not the cheapest place to do business or live.

6 Considerations Before Hitting The Road in São Paulo

20160303_SaoPauloTraffic entered the Brazilian market in July 2013 with the 30% acquisition of leading automotive portal Webmotors with the head office in São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city. Cars are obviously an important part of our business and you cannot help but see some big differences to being on the road in Australia.

Here’s 5 considerations for Australians before you hit the road in Sao Paulo:

1. Traffic is bad. They say morning meetings never start on time. Why? There is always someone (usually more than one) delayed by traffic. The amount of cars on the road is incredible and traffic jams are a given, São Paulo people just accept it. Every time I visit Sao Paulo the traffic never ceases to amaze me. Think of Punt Rd at peak hour on a regular basis.

2. Merging is a state of mind. You either merge seamlessly in Sao Paulo or you get no where as allowing people to merge is just part of being on the roads. It shouldn’t amaze but it does probably because we are so bad at it in Australia. No one gets upset at merging in Sao Paulo yet you try to “push in” on Punt Rd and it’s nearly on for “young and old”. I call merging a skill because it is one thing that I have found I have needed to teach my two boys who have been learner drivers in recent years. Most probably though it is a state of mind because if everybody knows that merging is an imperative to the flow of the roads then it should just happen.

3. Safety requirements. I’m not talking air bags here. Sao Paulo can be a dangerous place (even though I am yet to feel in any danger). For luxury cars bullet proof windows, even a bullet proof body is a must in Sao Paulo and must be considered as an aftermarket imperative or go cheaper. As is tinted windows, especially for solo female drivers. Having the windows down is a luxury especially in a lot of traffic where you can be susceptible to a bike pulling up beside the car to say hello. Stopping at traffic lights in the early hours with no one around is not advised either. One positive is road rage is limited compared to Australia – probably because a gun will most likely be pulled!

4. Small cars are nearly a must. It is no coincidence that most of the cars on the road in Sao Paulo are small cars as they are easier to maneuver in the traffic but the main reasons are price and parking. Generally smaller cars are cheaper by nature; cheaper to purchase and cheaper to run. Parking in Sao Paulo is a premium and very tight. The parking spaces are very small with cars packed together. I am a 4 wheel driver, I love having a big 7 seater up high on the road but I think even I would be converted to a smaller car if I lived in Sao Paulo.

5. Motor Bikes. There are more motor bikes in SE Asia but with the amount of traffic on the road in Sao Paulo, the way the motor bikes get around amazes (and scares me) every time. They constantly beep their horn to indicate they are coming and no gap is too small to weave their way through traffic, usually as fast as they can go. How I haven’t seen one come off I just don’t know.

6. Forget line of sight as a guide. You may able to see where you want to go but you cannot use that as guide to work out how far or how long it will take. Traffic is one consideration but the other is the maze of turns and lane crossings required (hence merging skills). This is especially so crossing the Marginal highway which has up to 8 lines both ways on either side of the “river” and run by where Webmotors and our partner Santander are located (in separate buildings) in Vila Olimpia.

It just seems to work, sort of. With all the traffic, motor bikes, constant merging, safety issues and the like, I am yet to see any accidents or road rage which is amazing given all the mitigating factors. In some ways driving in Australia is actually more dangerous.

São Paulo on its own represents a great opportunity of growth for Webmotors and carsales as cars will be around in this city for a good while yet.