No wonder Volkswagen Philippines had set up a roundtable for the motoring press earlier in the week--days before its official brand launch yesterday, September 27. No wonder the local distributor, formally called Automobile Central Enterprise, had announced the price list at that media briefing. The company had far bigger, more noble things in mind for its grand comeback ceremony than petty car prices.
Instead, Volkswagen devoted the entire ceremony held at Ayala Tower One to these simple but strong messages:
The time is now.
We're a responsible company.
We're here to stay.
"The time to come back to the Philippines is now," said Weiming Soh, Volkswagen AG's executive vice president and president of commercial operations in China and ASEAN. "The ASEAN market, including the emerging market in the Philippines, is the next frontier for Volkswagen in the Asia-Pacific region. We are very excited to reconnect with the Filipino market, knowing how well loved Volkswagen is in this country."
Soh made his appearance by driving a classic Beetle onto the stage.
And then a couple of emotional video clips were shown to the audience--a clip showing the heritage of the Volkswagen brand, and just as important, a clip showing the heritage of VW's new Philippine partner, Ayala Corporation. Indeed, the German carmaker seized the opportunity to rub in one basic point: That for its Philippine return, it has partnered with one of the country's biggest, most dynamic and most admired business organizations. In other words, that we can now all forget the debacle that its brand suffered in the '90s when it was represented in the Philippines by an ignominious distributor--that it's now perfectly all right to trust Volkswagen, its products and its services again.
To further drive home the point, Ayala Corporation president and chief operating officer Fernando Zobel de Ayala went onstage in a convertible New Beetle, noting that his shiny ride is the car his family wants him to bring home. He then went on to profess his company's complete support of the Volkswagen brand.
"Our first dealership is located in Bonifacio Global City," Ayala said. "And then we will open more showrooms in Metro Manila and in the Visayas for next year, including a service facility in Mandaluyong. We are honored to be instrumental in bringing back an icon to the Filipino people. Volkswagen is indeed the original people's car. And as a company that cares deeply about Filipinos, that is a source of personal pride for us."
"A strong partner is critical to our success," Soh added. "Hence, I am personally delighted that we have forged an alliance with the Ayala Group. Together with Ayala Corporation, let us celebrate the return of the original people's car."
Volkswagen had commissioned an agency in China to write an original song--one whose message is about being "here to stay"--specifically for the brand's return to our market. Jonalyn Viray belted out a stirring rendition of the ballad, joined by young children onstage to subliminally tell the guests that Volkswagen's comeback is good for the future of the Philippines.
So it's now officially official: Volkswagen is back. And we have every reason to take it seriously now. The Ayalas will make sure of it.
Photos by Mikko David