The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the way automakers operate. About two weeks into the crisis last year, automakers were forced to shutter their plants and dealerships. And when businesses were finally allowed to resume, dealerships had to face a new reality: contactless services, need for virtual showrooms that allow exterior walkarounds and 360-degree views of interiors. Even virtual test drives had to be arranged while salesforce had to learn livestreaming and Zoom to reach their customers, some requiring “safe pickup” or “home delivery.”
Things are much tougher for auto brands like Sojitz G Auto Philippines (SGAP) that started local operations only in September 2019. For a young business with a new brand to introduce to the market, it was a struggle.
“While we had to reset our expansion plans, we are now taking a more aggressive approach in reaching out to more customers in the country this year. As a result, we are able to keep up with our target network expansion schedules that were stalled by the pandemic,” said SGAP president & CEO Yosuke Nishi who related that the company initially planned on setting up 15 dealerships in 2020 and another 15 the next year.
As a new player in the market, SGAP had to double its efforts considering the excellent reception it is getting from car buyers. Geely Coolray remains a top-seller among the 5-seater sub-compact crossovers, while the newly launched mid-size SUV, the Okavango, is getting rave reviews. “Geely is one of the strong contenders in the country’s car industry that surpassed many expectations in the past year, from product quality to sales volume, especially during the pandemic. I believe this year would be better for the brand. This is why SGAP is beefing up its efforts not only to attain its sales targets this year, but also to rapidly expand our dealer network to be able to cater to more customers all over the country,” Nishi said.
11, more coming soon
With 11 Geely dealerships already in full operation nationwide, 13 more are scheduled to open soon. Beginning with its first dealership in North Edsa, SGAP immediately added Quezon Avenue, Makati City, Baliwag in Bulacan, Cagayan de Oro, Imus in Cavite, Cebu City, General Santos City, Davao City, Lipa City in Batangas and Zamboanga City.
Just recently, SGAP has appointed new dealers for Geely Bacolod, Geely Dagupan, Geely Marilao, Geely Bacolor, and Geely Sumulong Hghway.
SGAP also plans to set up a Geely presence in Iloilo City, Pasay City, Manila, Santa Rosa in Laguna, Angeles in Pampanga, Bacolod, and Dagupan and will be followed soon by Geely San Fernando, Geely Marikina, Geely Las Pinas City, Geely Marilao in Bulacan, Geely Tacloban City and Geely Taytay-Cainta in Rizal.
“As the crisis is seen to take much longer, this year will definitely be another tough year or many businesses. On the brighter side of things, I would like to believe that Geely was introduced in the Philippines at the right time, at a point where buyers are now demanding for more high tech and safety features in vehicles they wish to purchase yet still reasonably priced,” Nishi said.
There’s definitely a lot more to look forward to for Geely in 2021. Aside from its current expeditious expansion, Nishi hinted that new models will be coming during the second half of the year, bringing further excitement towards the Geely brand.
Charles E. Buban is an old timer in the Philippine automotive journalism scene. He first started covering the automotive beat in 2003, writing news and reviews of new models and car tech, among other car-related stuff. When not writing about cars, he could often be seen riding his mountain bike or doing long walks in the hope of catching a couple of legendary Pokemons.