If we\'re any good at guessing games, the Italian car brand Fiat could be on its way to our market come 2011. Based on inside information, CATS Motors--currently the official distributor of Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles in the Philippines--is gearing up for five new car brands next year. Yes, you read that right: five new brands! If this pushes through, CATS Motors would become the biggest automotive stable in the local market with a total of nine marques in its garage.
When we asked our source as to what these brands might be, he refused to give further details but promised to furnish us with more info once the contracts get locked down. Naturally, we couldn\'t stop right there. The \"investigative motoring journalists\" in us just had to keep digging--or, in this case, wondering. So let\'s see...
Assuming the incoming brands are affiliates of CATS Motors\' current ones, our best bets are those under the Fiat Group. You will recall that Mercedes-Benz used to be related to Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep (the last two are also Chrysler-owned brands) by virtue of the DaimlerChrysler merger. This alliance commenced in 1998 but broke up in 2007. For a time, we wondered whether CATS would let go of the Chrysler brands since there was no longer a connection with the flagship Mercedes-Benz. But the local distributor decided to maintain the status quo.
And then of course the Fiat Group acquired a substantial stake in Chrysler by way of its 20-percent purchase agreement sealed last year, making Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne Chrysler\'s concurrent chief executive.
In view of this, we suspect that should CATS look into expanding its automotive empire, the logical step would be to forge a partnership with Chrysler\'s new owner. This would result in a more efficient flow of things, as opposed to hooking up with entirely new associates. The brands under the Fiat Group are Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Ferrari and Maserati. The last two are out of the question since they\'ve already been secured by Willie Soong\'s group, which also sells Jaguar and Land Rover here.
That leaves us with three possible brands from the Fiat stable. Fiat makes sense since it has several nice small cars that could be a hit here, including the 500 and the Punto. Plus, Fiat already has brand recall in our market--the smallish Fiat Uno hatchback was available here in the early \'90s.
Alfa Romeo, too, could be a success here--if handled properly. The Italian brand boasts a desirable sporty cachet that Filipinos would love to get their hands on. It was a flop when it was sold here more than a decade ago, but that was more the upshot of brand mismanagement by the former distributor. Who wouldn\'t want to drive a Brera or a MiTo now?
As for Lancia, it\'s also a possibility but we don\'t see the point, especially when we look at the brand\'s hideous familial grille.
On the Daimler side of things, CATS could bring in Smart, what with the overwhelming popularity of fuel-efficient tiny cars these days. They just need to find a way to price the cars competitively. Daimler also owns Maybach, but that\'s shooting for the moon. I doubt this super-high-end luxury division could find five buyers in the country.
So there are a couple more slots available in this 2011 five-brand launch our source told us. We\'re assuming the bullish distributor is also considering other brands outside of its present partnerships. Chinese brands perhaps? What about the French ones (Citroen and Renault)? Or maybe CATS is opening a new showroom for an already existing brand in the Philippines? Like the hot-selling Hyundai, for instance? It has done the same for Mazda.
What do you think CATS Motors\' upcoming car brands would be?