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2021: The longest year

2021: The longest year

Botchi Santos

While 2020 will be remembered as the year chaos descended, it was actually 2021 that proved to be the longest, toughest, most difficult and emotionally charged year for many, the motoring industry included.

While we all assumed that the worst was over after 2020 and was looking forward to a better, brighter 2021, things took an even more difficult turn for the worst all because of an ill-timed temporary relaxation of quarantine measures, the slow roll-out of vaccines and the dreaded Delta variant of COVID19 which saw daily infection rates soar past 20,000 cases.

But 2021 also showed just how resilient the industry was.

Toyota took the lead by launching several revamped models, Nissan also trail-blazed into the unknown with several live driving events in partnership with the Department of Tourism, along with their own important vehicle launches, and luxury brands like Lexus, Audi, Bentley, Porsche and even Lamborghini were sold out, as the ultra-rich fueled conspicuous consumption. Of interest as well is Land Rover’s Defender, a special heritage model with a massive cult following sold very well in 2021.

Also of interest is the fact that it’s never been this cheap to own a BMW 5-Series executive sedan, (and many other BMW models) thanks to an impeccably optioned local units that straddle the fine line between cost and affordability versus luxury. Brands like Aston Martin and McLaren, relative newcomers in the industry have also slowly started to spread their wings after a long and difficult gestation period pre-pandemic.

While it has been a long time coming, the pandemic saw the rise and rise of the Chinese car brands. Leading the charge was Geely which grew from strength to strength, increasing their dealership network and location while backed up by solid products and an amazing after-sales / ownership experience. Their three model line-up will be supplanted by a new fourth model soon, if buzz on social media is to be believed. Let’s hope it’s just as impressive as its three cross-over siblings. MG was another strong contender in terms of volume sold, and the LCS Group owned GAC brand made a late splash launching new models in the second half of 2021.

But 2021 was also the year the oil producing giants took revenge: fuel prices reached all time highs in history as the global economies started rousing from sleep. The steep rise coincided with the start of the winter season, where crude oil and petroleum products rise in demand due to heating needs in countries in the northern hemisphere. Is their respite from the mercy of fuel prices? The massive industry push towards electrification seems to be a beacon.

Nissan has finally launched their mass-market EV, the Leaf, which joins the Jaguar i-Pace and Porsche Taycan as the more recognizable EVs in the market. It’s rumored that BMW will soon launch their EV line-up, and parent company SMC, which also owns Petron, will provide the charging network nationwide. Porsche Philippines is already in talks with several private entities to build charging stations in popular drivable destinations from Metro Manila as well. And with a full charge that has the potential to deliver over 400km of range at a cost of P1,400 per full charge given today’s electricity prices per kw/hour, going electric is becoming more and more attractive. It wasn’t just fuel prices that made a marked return: traffic has also reached pre-pandemic levels during this Christmas rush.

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While it is good to see conspicuous consumption in our society, it is an ever real concern that we can experience another surge in COVID19 cases if we let our guard down, fail to observe the minimum health and safety protocols and fail to control the entry and spread of the dreaded Omicron variant.

The relaxing of quarantine classifications saw the return of motorsports. Rally / rally-cross has been booming again, seeing many old timers dusting their boots, helmets and shoes for one more chance for glory. The traditional circuit race also made a huge splash with the 12-hour Kalayaan Cup Endurance Race, plus the gentleman racing series known as the Clubman Racing Series attracting well-heeled enthusiasts curious to venture beyond just the usual track-days and driving events, and foraying into actual wheel-to-wheel racing.

And since motorsports is back, the aftermarket is slowly picking up. Speed shops are building new engines, prepping cars, ordering sticky performance tires and the dyne tuning shops have been busy as tuners crank out numerous mega HP cars for drift, drag and circuit use plus of course all-around fast-road driving. Following social media channels of tuners like Profab and Speedworks, it’s clear that Filipinos love cars, going fast and being faster than the next guy as these tuners never seem to run out of customer cars.For 2022, we hope for a slow and steady improvement.

Sudden changes are never good, and with the 2022 national and local elections coming, it’s always good (or bad) for the local economy as conspicuous consumption gives opportunities for all. Let’s hope the motoring industry and its allied and supporting industries remain healthy and carry their momentum from the last quarter of 2021 all the way to new heights in 2022!