With the proposal of revolutionizing the operational model of the automotive assembly line, the iconic FNM badge rises from the ashes in the form of electric trucks
The Fábrica Nacional de Motores (FNM), popularly known as the “FeNeMê”, was inaugurated in 1942 in Xerém, in the district of Duque de Caxias, State of Rio de Janeiro, for the purpose of producing aircraft engines. But when the first airplane with an FNM engine came off the assembly line in 1946, the Second World War was over and the demand for aircraft was minimal.
In 1949, in a partnership with the Italian company, Isotta Fraschini, FNM became the first truck manufacturer in Brazil. The first model to be produced was the D-7.300, with a diesel engine and capacity for 7.5 tons of cargo. When Isotta started having financial problems and began to experience difficulties in supplying components, they were replaced by their compatriots, Alfa Romeo. The D-11.000 came onto the market in 1958, and this heavy truck could be seen everywhere on the Brazilian roads and was employed on all the building sites that were involved in the construction of the new capital, Brasília, with its rough and ready appearance and the deep sound of the six cylinder diesel engine.
In 1960, FNM launched their first automobile, the JK 2000, which was revamped in 1969 and renamed as the 2150. The sedan was produced until 1973 and became a sort of “dream car” for the better-off Brazilians, but it never gained the same level of popularity as the company’s trucks.
In 1968, the military government decided to privatize FNM, and the company was sold to Alfa Romeo. In 1977, Alfa Romeo was absorbed by Fiat, who continued to produce the heavy FNM 180 truck in Xerém for another two years, before moving on to produce their own Fiat trucks up until 1985.
The factory premises are currently occupied by Marcopolo Rio, the local unit of the major bus coach builder that is based in Rio Grande do Sul. But now, more than forty years after the original assembly lines were closed down, the FNM badge will soon be back on the Brazilian streets and roads, now mounted on the front of modern electric trucks.
The rebirth of FNM began in 2008, when a Rio-based company that is active in the mobility sector acquired the rights in the Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial (INPI) (the National Industrial Property Institute) to use the historic Brazilian trade name – including the badge, which had been inspired by the classical Alfa Romeo logo. In its new version, the FNM acronym now stands for the Fábrica Nacional de Mobilidades (National Factory of Mobilities).
The FNM Electric Division will be dedicated to high technology mobility solutions, with zero emissions bus and truck projects.
The company also develops the “RePower” system for the transformation of diesel-powered vehicles into electric vehicles. The proposal is to produce models for carrying cargo and also passenger-carriers that provide the logistics in a silent, safe and sustainable manner, without pollutants and without any carbon emissions.
The model FNM 832, with a gross laden weight of 13 tons, and the model FNM 833, with a gross laden weight of 18 tons, electric trucks will start rolling off the assembly lines in Caxias do Sul, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in November.
The brothers and businessmen from Rio Grande do Sul, Zeca and Alberto Martins, partners in the holding company that owns the rights to the FNM trade name, brought the company’s industrial unit to the city, in a partnership with Agrale S/A. In the initial phase, the trucks will be assembled using mostly imported components.
“Agrale is focused on modernity in logistics and on clean transport and already produces trucks and buses that are powered by methane gas, VNG and LNG. And now, with this successful partnership with FNM, we are going to produce electric trucks, buses and tractors, using state-of-the-art international technologies”, says Hugo Zattera, the President of Agrale S/A.
The expectation is that assembly line partnerships with local companies will yield fruits for the future installation of suppliers in the region, reducing production costs.
The price list for the FNM trucks has not yet been published. “The FNM production line will bring a new impulse of modernity to Rio Grande do Sul”, forecasts Zeca Martins.
The new FNM has a “vintage” looking cab, in a contemporary reinterpretation of the old “FeNeMê” trucks that were built in the 1960s.
The design of the electric trucks was developed by a team that was formed for that specific purpose and that was led by Celso Santos, Roberto Renner and Vicente Azevedo. The team also counted on the illustrious participation of the renowned São Paulo based automotive designer, Anisio Campos, who died last year in September at the age of 86, and Jonatan Bruno Streb, from Agrale S.A.
Responsible for the design of a number of automobiles, including the Puma GT sportscar, the DKW Carcará and the Dacon 828 microcar, the veteran designer became a great enthusiast of the recovery of the FNM brand name and collaborated in the development of the design of the product.
FNM is unwilling to release many of the technical details of their model 832 and 833 trucks. The model with a gross laden weight of 13 tons is 6.30 meters long and the model with a gross laden weight of 18 tons is 7.20 meters long. The electric engine uses technology that was developed in the USA, with a 650 Volts system.
The FNM Design team pays homage to Dacon Design, led at the time by Paulo de Aguiar Goulart and Anisio Campos, by adopting their Dacon 828 microcar spoiler design for the FNM trucks. Nelson Piquet launched the Mini-Dacon 828 at the 1982 GP Brasil de Formula 1 in Rio de Janeiro. Photos: Paulo de Aguiar Goulart collection - prototypes 001 and 002
In order to reduce the weight of the vehicle and increase its strength, performance and endurance, the production of the vehicles will use niobium in certain key components, such as the chassis, the brakes, the suspension, the wheels and certain other parts and structural elements. FNM states that all their trucks will be connected to the factory and to the respective operating companies.
“The new FNM is a ‘smart-truck’. It uses state-of-the-art technology, with a tablet that is connected to the operational IT center and to the companies’ logistics systems, enabling monitoring and innovative video-telematic solutions including anti-collision cameras with artificial intelligence, changing of lanes, alert for vehicles ahead starting up, alert for the driver smoking and being distracted, an accelerometer, running red lights, warning of the minimum distance from other vehicles in traffic, warning of collision risks, virtual bumpers, a high resolution screen at the rear that could transmit images captured by the front camera or advertisements, recognition of traffic lights, warning of any risk of collision with motorbikes and bicycles and four cameras – two on the sides, one on the front and one on the rear. All transmitting in real time to the operator’s management center and also to the ‘FNM cloud’… And with everything prepared for converting to an ‘automatic truck’ in the future”, explains Marco Aurélio Rozo, FNM’ Director of Information Technology.
If, in terms of technology, the emphasis is on modernity, FNM is even more audacious in terms of the business model. The company plans to make a total break with the mode of operation that is currently adopted by the mainstream of Brazilian vehicle makers. They intend to work with an “open spreadsheet”, in which all the vehicle production costs are presented – and even the company’s profit margin will be subject to approval from the purchasers. There will be no network of FNM dealerships, and all sales will be made directly to the logistics operators of the purchasers, by means of precontracted demand, and with the payment being made in advance.
Without a network of dealerships, the technical assistance model will also be different. Since all the FNM trucks will be online with the factory, when technical assistance from the manufacturer is needed, FNM personnel will go directly to the trucking company’s garage to make the necessary repairs / adjustments.
Pre-sales are already happening and, according to the company, the amount of interest in the product is surprising. “The truck manufacturers that operate in Brazil are ‘locked in’ to diesel and their parent companies have all decided that here will be the last country to evolve into using electric models. But the new FNM thinks differently and delivers safe, silent and connected logistics, that signify economy for their clients, does not operate with dealerships, reveals all their costs and profit margins and produces on demand. FNM is anything but normal”, synthetizes Zeca Martins. FNM has not yet officially presented their management team, however marketing is being run by Rubem Roberto Duailibi, formerly with DPZ Advertising, and the commercial department is coordinated by Marcos Pettinati, formerly with Dacon Veículos.
By: Luiz Humberto Monteiro Pereira/AutoMotrix