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As Filipinos–like all the other billions of human beings on this planet–do what they can to ride out the pandemic and survive until an effective vaccine for CoViD-19 gets in their hands, the players in the auto industry are also in for a roller-coaster ride of their lives. Suffering from the initial shock of lockdowns and work stoppages in the first half of 2020, automotive companies and dealerships are hastily hatching plans to regain lost momentum in the second half. Inquirer Motoring has asked industry experts and key executives what strategies, specific vehicle types and price ranges may push brands and organizations forward in the remaining months of 2020.

Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, president of the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (Avid), shared: “There is demand for passenger cars and the subcompact SUV at the lower end of the price range, since consumers are looking for safe and efficient personal mobility especially with the restrictions on public transport and the ongoing pandemic. We are also seeing a substantial increase in sales of small utility trucks and vans, underscoring the importance of transport and logistics in putting the Philippine economy back on track.

“The arsenal or silver bullets the industry can deploy include rapid digital transformation to meet the changing needs of consumers, innovative and disruptive selling tactics to win back customers, and the agility to adapt to a more complex and unpredictable business environment.”

Lawyer Rommel Gutierrez, president of Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, told Inquirer Motoring: “There seems to be a shift to entry level cars with low cost. We may not end the year with a bang but sure there will be winners as we see sales progress in the coming months.”

Froilan Dytianquin, general manager for Sojitz G Auto Philippines/Geely Philippines’ sales and marketing division, said: “Auto demand for this year will primarily come from private use by individuals or for their family. As the pandemic slowed down businesses and industries, we expect companies and medium scale companies to definitely defer purchases for re-fleeting next year (unless they really need it for the logistics of their business), just to reduce the impact on their financials for this year. As for the ‘silver bullets’ that will save the industry, we expect that the core volume segments such as sub-compact cars, multi-seat vehicles such as MPVs, midsize SUVs, and commercial vehicles such as pick-ups will be in demand for private use.”

Dytianquin added: “Current new models of sub-compact crossovers/SUVs are now getting popular with its high-value proposition. Also, as it is maybe quite insensitive for some to show off a brand new car nowadays, buyers of mainstream vehicles will try to limit their budgets and choose vehicles with lesser value.”

Rommel Sytin, president of the United Asia Automotive Group Inc (Foton Philippines/Chery Philippines), said: “At the end of the day, the type of cars that will push the industry forward are those that will meet the demand of the consumers. As we have seen in the last several years, consumers’ needs and wants change, sometimes suddenly. Right now, a large majority of new car buyers are those who want a safer and more convenient alternative to public transport, while considering affordable alternatives on top of their minds.”

He added: “Meeting this demand, Chery offers the right selections through the Tiggo 2 and Tiggo 5x which starts at P695,000. There’s also a market for those who want the latest features and technologies and want more space and seating capacity. We have those too in our flagship midsize 7-seater Tiggo 8, which has luxury car features for just P1.28 million. If there’s one thing buyers always appreciate, it’s value for money.”

Lawyer Alberto B. Arcilla, president and CEO of Chevrolet Philippines-The Covenant Car Company Inc, said, “As soon as quarantine restrictions eased up and mobility requirements increased, we have seen an increased interest in the different segments of the brands we distribute—Chevrolet and MG.

“The subcompact sedan MG 5 and the ZS Crossover SUV had strong and steady increases in sales, month on month. For Chevrolet, the same could be said about our mini passenger cars and the large North American models. Both brands offer a wide array of vehicles that provide mobility solutions and good value for money to customers.”

Arcilla added, “We at TCCCI acknowledged the new dynamics and needs of the motoring public so we established various aftersales programs aligned with our commitment to deliver vehicle ownership experiences that are unique to both MG and Chevrolet. Our vehicles from both brands are backed by 5-year warranty coverage, 1 year preventive maintenance for all MG models, limited 2-year free PMS offer on select Chevrolet vehicles, and 24/7 roadside assistance.”

Keiichi Suzuki, vice president and general manager of Suzuki Philippines Inc’s Automobile Division, said, “For the remaining months of this year, we are optimistic that the Ertiga, Dzire, Ciaz, together with our newest offerings, the XL7 and the S-Presso will attract more of the market as these models have proven sales drivers.

“The Suzuki Carry has made an impression with our customers especially those who are in business. The reliability and performance of the Suzuki Carry has made it quite attractive to entrepreneurs. The All-New Carry is an essential partner to get through these trying times and bounce back from the effects of the pandemic,” said Suzuki.