Statistics say Brazilian industry is shrinking by the day. Some companies are putting employees on leave or closing their doors until the government and unions do something to protect them.
My dentist was hysterical last time I had a tooth treated because she was trying to purchase injections. She said the government quality inspection agency had cancelled the license for US injections and she was trying to get them anyway and failing miserably. She said she could simply not buy the Brazilian ones because they were terrible quality, and that the US ones had silicone and didn´t hurt her patient´s gums.
The reason Brazilian industry is dropping is because it is 10 years behind in terms of technology, innovation and quality, and it´s not because of lack of investment. Protectionism is always a backward path, always bad. Competitiveness is healthy and makes industries work harder. But most Latin American countries continue to prefer to protect their industries against the outside world.
In the 20 years I have lived in Brazil, the story is always the same. A new product comes out and is initially successful because it is good quality, eager to please and pleasing. Then, when sales go up, the quality drops and the company becomes greedy. Greed is inherent to companies and most global companies cut costs by exporting labour to China or India but quality has to be maintained or improved to please customers. In Brazil, they reduce quality because they can´t (or won´t) reduce labour costs or tax (which are both incredibly high and made burdensome by the government who claims to protect them) so good quality products become harder and harder to find. Instead of adopting the US mentality of selling more, they try to sell for more. A higher price is always the focus, never a higher quantity (we all accept lesser quality if the price is low) and quality is reduced to an absolute minimum.
There are exceptions of course, such as Natura, Alpargatas, Hering, Vale and other well-established companies, and they have a huge number of faithful consumers who would never trade the quality of their products for anything cheaper, which goes to show that all Brazilian customers are willing to pay for quality. Other companies truly try to maintain quality but cannot because the quality of raw materials is so bad. Fiorucci, for example, closed its factory in the town I live in because the quality of Brazilian thread (and other raw materials) is so bad. Grimoldi, an Argentinian shoe company, stopped manufacturing shoes in Brazil (cheaper labour) because Brazilian glue is so bad. Shoes that were known for their quality when produced in Argentina, would literally fall apart in your hand when they came from Brazil.
Foreigners who live in Brazil, who are accustomed to buying items with a basic usable quality are forced to ask friends and family to send them plugs, sockets, clothes pegs, thread, pins and needles (Brazilian ones get rusty although some claim to be stainless steel). Of course, lots of these products come from China and Taiwan, but the Brazilian ones are more expensive and just as bad.
In some cases, the bad quality gets to be dangerous. I once purchased a “cheap” iron (a well-known brand, the cheapest in the store but not cheap by my standards) that I had to stop using in the middle of ironing a shirt because it was releasing sparks and short-circuiting. Too many electrical items have exposed live parts that aren´t supposed to be live.
Lots of Brazilian housewives are waiting for a decent furniture company to open its doors. They are simply tired of wardrobes that can´t be moved because the parts never fit properly again and you can´t close the doors or drawers. The problem is that they are not cheap and there is no mid-option. It´s either BRL 400 or BRL 4000 for a decent quality wardrobe.
If Brazil truly wants to grow it has to create an real open market, allow companies to collapse and re-erect so they can compete and become better, following globally-accepted quality standards. Until they do, Brazilian industry will only sell to Brazilians who are starting to look elsewhere for the quality they expect.