YOU’RE UP, EUROPE
Filipinos want to be stuck in traffic in a Rolls-RoyceBy Tessa R. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
There are days when you feel that there are just too many cars out on the streets. The nightmarish traffic of the last holiday season certainly fueled much of that sentiment. But hasn’t it occurred to you that, maybe, just maybe, you may have just gotten bored with the sight of the same type of vehicles that cause your daily dose of road gridlock?
So, what new things do Pinoys want to see rolling in this deep side of Asia? What would make the ordinary motorist not mind the traffic, and instead stand still in appreciation of what’s beside, behind, or in front of him (or much better yet, what he’s inside of)?
The world’s biggest business, according to Jonathan Mantle of “Car Wars,” “makes empires, destroys economies, shapes history.” Now a bit of risk-taking by auto manufacturers, like trying out the Philippine market, would surely be within their vast powers. Some of the more enterprising have already done so. Joining the “early birds” from Japan and America such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda, Nissan, Ford, Mazda, Chevrolet, Isuzu, Subaru and Suzuki as well as the Korean brands Hyundai and Kia, and the emerging China brands, are the “exotics” mostly originating from Europe. Talk about the cars coming from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo, Audi, Porsche, Lexus, and the “Italian stallion” Ferrari and the Lamborghini and Maserati.
And it seems Pinoys can’t get enough of this European invasion. Here are the top brands local car enthusiasts look forward to seeing more of (or see for the first time here) this 2013:
Ultraluxury carmaker Rolls-Royce, which once owned the title “best car in the world,” was rumored to be joining the elite roster of brands entering the country. Rolls-Royce is reportedly concluding a deal with the Auto Hub group of Willy Tee Ten. You can hold your breath, the official news is expected to come out early next week.
Rolls-Royce fanatics here describe Rolls-Royce as the Hermes of bags, the Vertu of cell phones, the Mount Everest of cars, the crème de la crème of all things with tires. It would be the real traffic stopper.
This may be the only word with which you won’t be laughed at if you pronounce the “V” with an “F”, and the “W” with a “V”. The brand name is like a magic word, when and where it is uttered only good memories and even better expectations come to mind. Last October, Volkswagen in Germany announced it had appointed Ayala’s wholly owned subsidiary Ayala Automotive Holdings Corp. as the Philippine distributor for Volkswagen passenger vehicles.
Steven Edward Yu, Power Wheels Magazine editor, says he eagerly anticipates the reentry of the Volkswagen brand in the country, “because their cars—whether the Beetle, Kombi or Karmann Ghia of yore, or today’s Golf, GTI, New Beetle and Scirocco—have always been well-built and well-loved, but almost always outshone by their up-market German rivals and their own Audi subsidiary.”
Yu adds, “The brand’s return in 2013 under the Ayala Automotive Holdings Corp. will undoubtedly leverage each corporate giant’s strengths toward marketing the Volkswagen brand as an intelligent, practical and reliable German alternative to the older Deutsche players.”
“Volkswagen, the time is now,” seconds Palma, mouthing off the Polo and Touareg. Palma said he also wouldn’t mind if the German automaker also came in with its “smaller cars with attitude.”
Veteran car show organizer Sophie de los Santos says she “would like to see new auto brands which carry models which are not only economical but also hopefully affordable, like the SEAT Ibiza Ecomotive or the SKODA Fabia Greenline.”
Auto enthusiast Francis Samonte, who is also the Toyota Auto Club Philippines chairman, says “supercar manufacturers like Ferrari and Lamborghini are starting to have a niche here in the Philippines, so I’d love to see Aston Martin have a showroom here as well, for the people who want to feel what James Bond feels when driving one, I’ve also wanted to see the Aston Martin Vanquish on our shores, since it has a remarkable engine note.”
There are also high expectations on returning French brand Peugeot.
Yu says of Peugeot: “Peugeot cars exhibit exceptional initial build quality and incorporate unique, proprietary diesel-engine technologies that are paving the way towards wider diesel acceptance in the premium segment, and changing the way diesel is perceived as a ‘dirty’ fuel. Their Red-Dot-Award-winning, petrol-powered RCZ is stunning, both in looks and performance. It also helps that Eurobrand Distributors’ pricing puts Peugeot within the reach of most hardworking Filipinos.”
Waking up sleeping giants
Not all eyes are on the Old World, however. Many are still expectant that more surprises would spring forth from traditional and emerging sources.
Ferman Lao, Top Gear Philippines Magazine technical editor, notes, “It would be interesting to see more of the China brands and find out how far they’ve come, or how much further they need to improve in build quality and desirability.”
Japanese brand Nissan is being urged by automobile fans to get more involved in the local fray. Leslie Sy, Kotse.com online expert, says, “They have a really good lineup of cars in other countries, but the local distributor(s) seems uninterested in expanding their aging vehicles. Nissan in Japan and other countries have good small- to medium-sized cars that could sell well in the Philippines. They are one of the oldest and they used to be one of the top brands in the past.”
Sam Liuson, managing director of Concept One Wheels, said that he would like to see more of Nissan “for the GTR and the 370Z.” Former motoring journalist and Nissan enthusiast Mike Black remarks: “NMPI (Nissan Motor Philippines Inc.) needs to bring in more exciting models, as the current lineup is complete but uninspiring. Thus, even when the 350Z first came out locally and in spite of its Porsche-beating performance, local buyers were leery of plunking hard-earned money on a Nissan. Compare this to when, in the mid-’90s, NMPI introduced the S14 Sylvia under the 200SX badge and sold all 200 units straight away. NMPI is at a point where it needs to start investing in its image as much as it should invest in its cars.”
Former Inquirer Motoring columnist and ex-rally driver Andre Palma dares Nissan: “World cars, please?”
Liuson says he looks forward to seeing more “world-class hybrid cars” from Toyota and Lexus.
On the rebound?
Auto enthusiast Niky Tamayo says, “I think in this rebounding economy, everyone is doing well. I’d like to cite two manufacturers who need a break: Obviously, Mazda Philippines. They’ve had a rough year, changing distributors once again. I hope Berjaya does a good job with them. Mazda is on a rebound globally, and we shouldn’t miss out on it.
He points out the “big news this month”: “GM and Isuzu are once again getting together. I hope this means new products for Isuzu. They’re still one of the big names in diesel, and they really need new products to showcase their abilities.”
Leslie Sy, Kotse.com online car expert, expects to see “more diesel options for sedans/hatchbacks and small SUV/CUVs. It would mean we would have moved on in the quality of (diesel) fuels we have available in the country. One major obstacle in getting diesel-variant cars in the country is the poor-quality diesel we get from the pumps. Once we have a wider distribution of Euro IV diesel, we will see a dramatic improvement in air quality.”
Yu says that “with the price of fuel and the life-threatening levels of pollution in the city, buying a muscle car is almost showing blatant indifference to our environment. Supercars like Ferraris and Lambos are so prohibitively expensive, their numbers will be too small (and self-limiting) to make a significant dent on the environment anyway.”
A small dent on the environment, perhaps, but quite a big impression on the traffic-weary Pinoy motorist.