By Laurence Iliff, Crain News Service
SAO PAULO, Brazil — Steve St. Angelo, head of Latin American and Caribbean operations for Toyota Motor Corp. and its Lexus nameplate, donned a pair of shades when he took the stage at the Sao Paulo auto show late last year.
“The future is so bright, we're going to need sunglasses to see,” he said during a presentation to the media.
Indeed, despite the heavy clouds of economic recession and political upheaval hanging over South American auto markets, Toyota sees rays of hope.
Sales for the Toyota and Lexus brands rose by a modest 13,829 units in 2016 to 391,720 vehicles in the 40-country region, Toyota said. In Brazil, deliveries were up 2,148 to 179,448. (Mexico, part of North America, isn't included.)
While that wasn't exactly sizzling results, it's certainly a start for a company that has been a bit player in the region compared with competitors such as General Motors Inc. and Volkswagen A.G.
And there are small signs of economic recovery in Brazil and Argentina, two of the biggest economies in South America, along with some glimmers among the smaller nations in the region.
Mr. St. Angelo, a 30-year GM veteran who joined Toyota in 2005, is realistic about what can be achieved from year to year in a part of the world subject to big boom-and-bust cycles.