carsales.com.au 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.