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In July 2019, Cars.com released a report that showed 62 percent of all new cars in the United States were sold to women. The report also revealed that women influenced more than 85 percent of all car purchases. This trend somehow reflected the Philippine auto market, wherein a 2016 JD Power study pointed to an increasing number of women buying new cars—up to 45 percent—from just 31 percent of the overall Philippine car-buying population in 2013.
It wasn’t surprising, then, that a similar trend seemed to happen to one particular model of one auto brand, at a specific dealership—namely the Okavango SUV offered at the Geely North Edsa dealership.
May 2021 sales in that dealership showed that almost 50 percent of its Okavango buyers were women. In fact, its first Okavango Urban Plus unit was sold to a female buyer.
Froilan Dytianquin, Sojitz G Auto Philippines/Geely Philippines general manager for sales and marketing, offers his take on why the Okavango may be such a hit with the ladies. “The Okavango attracts both MPV and mid-size SUV segments. Women will be seen driving it more since it would be easier to drive than mid-size SUVs, what with it having just the right ground clearance and car-like driving posture.”
This writer interviewed two such women buyers of the Okavango Urban Plus. Both cited the Volvo technology used in the vehicle, which was crucial in their purchase decision. Chinese auto powerhouse Geely acquired the Scandinavian marque in 2010, marking the largest overseas acquisition by a Chinese automaker (It turns out that “Castle Volvo” and its fortified “defenses” of Japanese, American, and Korean tech was no match to a Chinese “army” that had mastered scaling the “Great Wall”).

Susana B. Navarro

Ma. Susana B. Navarro, 56, a supervisor at the Navarro Law Office, bought an Okavango Urban Plus three months ago. Now her vehicle has run almost 3,500 km. Mitcy Benitez, 36, COO of The Revenue Avenue and owner of Mosaic Events Management, bought her own Okavango Urban Plus just this April, and has run for just about 2,000 km.
Navarro is quite knowledgeable of the Volvo technology behind her SUV, as she described, “Although Geely is new in the Philippines, it patterned the Okavango in the mold of Volvo, which is actually European. It has a 48V EMS battery design which, if you reached speeds in excess of 100 kph and you remove your right foot from the gas pedal, it would no longer use any RPMs and thus, the car would be running without any fuel consumption. It’s suitable for a lady driver like me because the steering wheel is so light. For me, there is nothing more to improve on anymore.”
For her part, Benitez said, “practicality, added features and Volvo technology” were some of the many reasons which made her decide to choose the Okavango.
“Upon watching all the videos, reviews and checking its features from November to December 2020, I was really amazed with the Volvo technology and its added features which you would normally get only in more expensive high-end cars,” assessed Benitez.
Navarro and Benitez heaped praises on the Okavango’s 1.5L Turbo engine and the 7-speed wet-type dual clutch transmission. All Okavango variants are equipped with 48V Electric Motor Synergy (EMS) technology, which ups the SUV’s power to 190 hp and torque to 300Nm. Safety features include 6 SRS airbags, 360-degree panoramic camera with a best-in-class guidance system and dynamic auxiliary lines, speed warning, electronic stability control, hill start assist, central locking with speed-sensing auto lock, and hill descent control.
Comparing the Okavango to other more popular SUV brands, Navarro and Benitez observed that the Okavango was still relatively more affordable, “considering that the Okavango already offered three drive settings: Eco mode, comfort and sport. It even has a sunroof, and rides like a luxury car,” added Navarro.

Mitcy Benitez

Benitez was particularly delighted with the “power steering, engine technology, humongous sun roof/moon roof, everything in automatic function such as power windows, trunk door, all sensors around it such as the 360 camera with 3D-Adaptive Drive Beam and Matrix LED headlamps. I like it when the headlights seem to ‘wink’ when you start the engine. You can also turn on the engine through the key. I like the bigger space with foldable, middle and back rows. The automatic brake system, since it’s for our safety, and the big screen.
Unlike Navarro, Benitez does see room for improvement. “I hope the Okavango gets a built-in GPS, and it becomes easy to connect or download apps directly in the infotainment system. I also wish the ground clearance would be higher, for floods.”
Benitez related: “I think my most memorable drive so far was when I drove Pio (what we named our Okavango) to Bataan for its break-in trip. The ride was really smooth, given that we had things at the back, and no power lags regardless if we were going uphill or downhill. Pio showed such strong acceleration. On the way back to Manila, some tree leaves landed on the windshield, and the wipers automatically activated, which just showed that the rain sensor worked.”

3-cylinder efficiency
Navarro explained why her “Oka” is such a thrifty beast. “The gasoline-powered Okavango has three cylinders, the reason why it is thrifty. Even going to Tagaytay, a single trip consumption from Pasig City is just between 6 and 8 liters.”
The Okavango Urban Plus is the latest variant offered by Sojitz G Auto Philippines (SGAP), unveiled to coincide with the Chinese New Year this February. The other variants are Urban and Comfort. The Okavango Urban Plus offers three rows with spacious interior, 19 seat configurations, 42 storage nooks and compartments, double-layer console, and triple-zone air conditioning system equipped with CN95 filter. Additional features are the 60-inch panoramic sunroof, 3-layer window shade to fully block the sun’s rays, four lighting modes, self-adjusting high and low beams, adaptive front lighting system (steering linkage), automatic headlight leveler; 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, and music, radio, and other multimedia functions.

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