Last weekend, for the first time in history, two auto shows were simultaneously drawing crowds in Metro Manila. The 9th Manila International Auto Show (MIAS) was open April 4-7 at the World Trade Center, widely publicized as the biggest showing yet with 300 cars on display.
At the same time, from April 5 to 7, the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) held ICON, or Innovation Congress, at an improvised tent in Bonifacio Global City, featuring “two power events”: an Innovation Forum and an Innovation in Mobility Expo with a car exhibit.
Fourteen versus 300 cars on display? No contest, you would say, and thereby categorize ICON as the 2013 edition of AVID’s annual Thought Leadership Forum instead of a car show. Until it dawns on you that AVID’s big guns—Hyundai, PGA Cars (Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley), Formula Sports (Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar, Range Rover), Mercedes-Benz, Chevrolet and Volvo—were conspicuously absent from MIAS.
Sure, a couple of Ferraris and a Range Rover Defender were on display, but these were shown by private collectors or dealers, not by the distributors. In last year’s MIAS, the biggest, most spectacular displays were those set up by the distributors of Hyundai, Ford, PGA Cars, CATS Motors (Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep), BMW, Chevrolet and Volvo. This year, 99 percent of them were missing.
NEW MODELS. Ford, Subaru, Mazda, Kia, Mini Cooper and Jeep did participate in this year’s MIAS, but only because they had new models to launch and couldn’t wait for the next Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS). The Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi), which is composed of Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Honda, Universal Motors, Isuzu, Suzuki, Kia and BMW, mounts PIMS every two years and the next one isn’t scheduled until August 2014.
Meanwhile, over at the Innovation in Mobility Expo, AVID president Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, who heads Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (Hari), brought in from South Korea as the Expo’s main attraction the Hyundai i-oniq, an electronic sport hatchback concept car with gull wing doors. The i-oniq was complemented by the Hyundai i40, a sleek 1.7-liter common rail direct injection (CRDI) variable geometry turbo (VGT) diesel sedan and the Sonata hybrid. The i40 and Sonata hybrid are not sold locally, but their appearance at the ICON Expo got people hoping and asking if and when they would become available.
Although fewer cars were shown at the ICON Expo, there was a car for every taste, need and budget ranging from an entry-level mini subcompact (a Chevrolet Spark) to midsize sedans, 4X4 pickup trucks and SUVs to a sleek black Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster and a 16-seater King Long Max passenger van. A MINI Cooper Paceman and a Foton Thunder pickup, which were shown by their distributors at MIAS, were also displayed at the ICON Expo.
When I asked Hari CEO Fe Agudo why Hyundai didn’t participate in the 9th MIAS, she said that it would have been impossible for the i-oniq concept car and the i40 to be shuttled daily between the ICON Expo in BGC and MIAS at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, much less be in two places at the same time.
CHEVY SPIN. I popped the same question—this time about Chevrolet’s absence from MIAS—to Lyn Buena, vice president of The Covenant Car Company Inc. (TCCI) the importer/distributor of Chevrolet vehicles. She answered that TCCI decided not to join when the new Chevy model they planned to launch at MIAS did not arrive as expected. The new Chevy is the Spin, a compact MPV that is manufactured in Brazil.
Maricar Parco, president of Asian Carmakers Corp., said that BMW did not show up in MIAS this year because of a new policy focusing on niche marketing. In other words, ACC will participate only in more exclusive events for the affluent class who can afford to buy a premium brand like BMW. Nonetheless, a BMW M3 was displayed in the Tuason Racing School booth at MIAS since J.P. Tuason is now the country’s first and only M-certified BMW Driver Trainer.
To fill up the gaps in the schedule of activities, the organizer of MIAS made stunt driver Russ Swift perform three times a day instead of two and admitted more Chinese car manufacturers. Aside from Foton, Dong Feng, JMC, JAC Motors, Great Wall and Chery exhibited their products. Harley-Davidson motorcycles debuted at MIAS while the usual awards programs—the Car of the Year Awards, Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) annual Motor Sport Awards and the Petron-MIAS Custom and Classic Car Competition—helped to overcome the gaps left by the car companies that did not show up this year.
SUCCESS. Despite the diminished participation of auto industry leaders, Worldbex Services International, the organizer of MIAS, succeeded in attracting over 96,000 paying (P100 entrance fee) visitors, surpassing last year’s 83,000. Will Campi’s PIMS next year top that?
AVID’s ICON Expo was not competing with MIAS for visitor volume, although admission was free and a brand-new Hyundai i10 was raffled off on the last day. Rather, the Innovation Congress Forum and Expo shared the ideas and advocacies of thought leaders and innovators for smarter, better ways of doing things with the end in view of boosting the country’s competitiveness. The Forum elucidated Hyundai’s design and science communications while the Expo showcased the eco-friendly and fuel-efficient innovations and advanced technologies of car makers who are AVID members.
Summing up, MIAS targeted the mass market while the ICON event of AVID and DOST drew a smaller but smarter audience. Whether AVID’s ICON Expo will eventually grow into an international-level car show is anybody’s guess. If and when that happens, the Philippines will be the only Asian country to have three auto shows.