Those who complain that we don't have enough car choices in the Philippines, listen to this: Mazda Philippines (Berjaya Auto Philippines) CEO Steven Tan believes Filipinos are actually the luckiest car buyers in the ASEAN region for having the widest selection of vehicles available in the market.
"Your car market is very open," Tan told TopGear.com.ph during a dinner meeting, referring to our lax trade agreements, including zero tariff on cars imported from any ASEAN country. Even cars from Japan with at least a 3.0-liter engine are exempt from import duties. Tan is Malaysian.
Note that Tan isn't complaining; he's merely stating a fact. Having previously worked at the Malaysian and Thailand offices of Ford, Tan definitely knows what he's talking about when it comes to the ease or the difficulty of bringing new cars to a certain market.
"You have cars here that someone in Thailand or Malaysia can only dream about," he pointed out, adding that both the Thai and Malaysian governments are very protective of their respective manufacturing industries, making it hard for foreign carmakers to just ship in any CBU models they like.
In the Philippines, because we have a government that refuses to protect and prioritize manufacturing, CBU units are the name of the game--and they arrive in droves. Even gray-market vendors can easily bring in exotic models that the authorized distributors wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.
This--the large number of vehicle choices--is beneficial to car buyers, we suppose. But is it beneficial to the whole auto industry in the grand scheme of things?
Photo by Vernon B. Sarne