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Top Gear Philippines

Top Gear Philippines: local car industry stories of 2014

Witnessing the launch of several new vehicles, and welcoming new brands and automobile categories, the Philippine automotive industry was definitely on a roll this year. Car sales figures were consistently healthy, and the constant shuffling in market-share ranking kept things interesting. Here's a rundown of the most important industry stories that shaped the Philippine car landscape in 2014.

10. Mitsubishi's acquisition of Ford's Santa Rosa manufacturing plant. Aiming to boost its sales to 390,000 units in its five major markets in the ASEAN region by 2016, the Japanese carmaker bought the 21-hectare plant that can produce 40,000 vehicles. What could be the next Mitsubishi bestseller to roll out of this manufacturing facility? Let's find out in the coming months.

9. Appointment of Antonio Zara as Nissan Philippines' president and managing director. When former Nissan Philippines president Kenji Naito was promoted and reassigned to Nissan's Thailand regional office, many people expected another Japanese executive to take over. After all, most Japanese car brands in the Philippines are headed by expatriate bosses from the head office. However, long-time General Motors officer Toti Zara, a Filipino, took over the post vacated by Naito-san.

8. New wave of Indian brands. Two car marques from our South Asian neighbor made their way to our shores. Tata Motors staged its entry into the Philippine market during the Manila International Auto Show early this year through Pilipinas Taj Autogroup, its official distributor in the country. In September, it introduced seven new models to Filipino buyers.

Mahindra, on the other hand, had no dramatic entrance. In July, we reported that the Mumbai-based car manufacturer is coming to the country. Despite not having an official launch (yet), Mahindra's Philippine distributor has been in talks with the Philippine National Police to make the former's vehicles part of the latter's patrol fleet.

7. A Korean car brand in the Philippine Basketball Association. Early this year, Columbian Autocar Corporation--the official distributor of Kia vehicles in the country--applied for a team franchise in the popular professional basketball league. It was a marketing dream come true when the PBA's board of governors approved the application. The Korean carmaker named its team Kia Sorento, then hired Manny Pacquiao as its head coach.

6. Robust sales numbers. The Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI), the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) and the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID) reported positive car sales figures throughout the year. In October, CAMPI posted its highest monthly sales record of 22,278 units, a 32.6% growth from the same period last year.

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Meanwhile, AVID registered a sales growth of nearly 18% from last year. Check out the figures below.

Segment  Company  Units sold from
 January to November 
 Growth (%) 
2013 2014
Passenger cars (PC) BUAI 89 82 -7.87%
CATS 355 367 3.38%
HARI 12,174 14,962 22.90%
MIPI 395 412 4.30%
PGA 176 208 18.18%
SMC 58 60 3.45%
TCCCI 1,101 990 -10.08%
TOTAL 14,348 17,081 19.05%
 Light commercial vehicles (LCV)  BUAI 57 53 -7.02%
CATS 281 345 22.78%
HARI 7,443 6,443 -13.44%
MIPI 2,239 2,411 7.68%
PGA 162 102 -37.04%
SMC 55 47 -14.55%
TCCCI 3,323 6,396 92.48%
TOTAL 13,560 15,797 16.50%
PC and LCV TOTAL 27,908 32,878 17.81%

Leading the overall car sales chart is Toyota Motor Philippines. The company announced early this month that it had sold 96,787 units this year, and that it was on track to surpass the 100,000-unit mark.

5. The sales rank shuffle. The year 2013 came to a close with Hyundai being the third best-selling car brand in the country, having sold a total of 22,033 units. Far behind the Korean carmaker were Honda and Ford, selling 13,356 and 13,286 units, respectively.

This year, however, we saw a shuffle in positions by Honda and Ford. According to CAMPI's October sales report, Honda Cars Philippines held a 5.8% market share of the 192,005 year-to-date units sold. We can then deduce that the Japanese carmaker sold about 11,136 units from January to October this year.

Former fifth-placer Ford Philippines, on the other hand, had overtaken Honda. As of October, the American carmaker had sold a total of 16,514 units for the year, owing to the strong demand for the Ranger and the EcoSport. Ford is now nipping at the heels of Hyundai, the latter selling 19,675 units from January to October. Let's see how these two brands finish 2014 on the sales chart.

4. The hatchback party. No less than the country's best-selling car manufacturer, Toyota Motor Philippines, introduced its Wigo mini hatchback in 2014. Suzuki and Honda also helped make the hatchback segment livelier this year. In early June, Suzuki launched the 1.2 variant of the Swift. Honda, for its part, unveiled the all-new Jazz, all four variants of which came with a 1.5-liter engine. Honda fans who would have preferred a 1.3-liter engine were not completely disappointed, as the Japanese carmaker also introduced this year the smaller Brio. Under the hood of the Brio is the second-generation Jazz's 1.3-liter i-VTEC gasoline powerplant. Sweet.

3. Introduction of all-new compact sedans. The year 2014 saw three all-new models of compact sedans. Unveiled in January, the new Toyota Corolla Altis variants still have the same 2.0- and 1.6-liter in-line-four engines under their hood. The price range? P836,000 to P1.201 million.

The newly established Nissan Philippines, meanwhile, launched in March the Sylphy compact sedan alongside the Altima midsize sedan. The Sylphy has three variants: 1.6L base MT, 1.6L CVT and 1.8L CVT. The 1.6-liter engine is capable of 114hp and 154Nm, while the 1.8-liter mill is packed with 131hp and 174Nm.

A month later, Mazda distributor Berjaya Auto Philippines made available to the public the all-new Mazda 3 (in sedan and hatchback forms), available with two engines (2.0-liter Skyactiv and 1.5-liter Skyactiv).

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2. A new vehicle category. You will most likely come across related literature about the Ford EcoSport being called "the Fiesta on stilts." No matter what others say about the EcoSport, we'd say it blazed a trail for a new vehicle category in the country. It is, after all, the first subcompact crossover in our market. And Ford is happy with the public's reception. With a 550mm wading capability, the EcoSport provides owners with peace of mind during the rainy season.

1. Arrival of much-awaited SUVs. In the last quarter of the year, three car manufacturers unveiled SUVs that had been highly anticipated by the public. In September, Isuzu Philippines finally launched the long-overdue MU-X. The current waiting list of at least one month is an indication of the huge demand for the model. IPC even revealed to TopGear.com.ph that it had requested to increase its MU-X shipment of 500 units to 700 units a month.

Also introduced in September was the all-new Nissan X-Trail. This compact SUV underwent a major aesthetic upgrade, stirring excitement among Nissan fanboys. The X-Trail was the last model launch by the Japanese carmaker for the year. It is available in two variants: 4x2 (powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engine) and 4x4 (powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engine).

In October, Ford Philippines released the current-generation model of the Escape. The available one in our market had been the more-than-a decade-old first-generation model. With the introduction of the latest Escape, fuel economy-conscious SUV shoppers have to note that Ford's compact SUV is EcoBoost-powered. Sourced from the US, the third-generation Escape is available in two variants: 1.6L SE EcoBoost AT 4x2 and 2.0L Titanium EcoBoost AT 4x4.

On the premium side of the fence, Asian Carmakers Corporation brought in the new-generation BMW X5, while Lexus Manila launched the radically styled NX compact crossover.

Artwork by Raynand Olarte

Tracy Carpena
Online Managing Editor
Tracy belongs to a family who loves wheels. Take it literally. The clan digs cars, bicycles and yes, even strollers.
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