How are auto industry leaders coping with the latest coronavirus surge?
More than a surge, it’s a tsunami caused by the new, highly transmissible Omicron mutation together with the lingering Delta variant, and it has wrecked consumer confidence anew after the euphoria of the Christmas shopping season.
When consumer confidence plunges, so do business expectations. Business plans and strategies may need to be adjusted. To get an idea of how the industry would likely cope with the current crisis, PDI Motoring gathered from the CEOs and/or managing directors of car companies their answers to three guideline questions. The first is, in view of the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, if they are adjusting their marketing strategy for the first half of the year, second if they’re postponing/ delaying any new car launches and third if their projections for the industry this year have changed given the Delta and Omicron tsunami.
Here are some of the quick answers we were able to obtain given the time constraints caused by the fast and furious spread of the virus that led to cases hitting record-breaking levels the past few days:
FORD PH MANAGING DIRECTOR MICHAEL BREEN: INFORM, ENGAGE, CONNECT
The first to respond was Michael Breen, managing director of Ford PH. The American brand is riding high, having recaptured the coveted No. 3 rank in the Top 10 sales performers honor roll before 2021 ended.
“At Ford, we will continue to ensure the safety of our customers, employees, and dealer partners in view of the recent COVID-19 surge. With Ford Safety Guarantee, customers can be assured that strict safety and sanitary protocols are in place in all our showrooms, giving them the confidence and peace of mind when visiting a Ford dealership. This includes temperature check, availability of sanitation products, social distancing measures, wearing of appropriate PPE for all dealer staff, and regular sanitation and disinfection.
“In terms of marketing strategy, we will continue to leverage on various digital platforms to inform, engage, and connect with our customers. We have seen over the last two years how consumers turned to digital and social media channels when it comes to getting information about a product or a service they want to purchase. The digital platform has been a familiar territory for Ford Philippines after launching a number of our products online for the past two years. Speaking of launches, the schedules of our vehicle launches remain the same this year.
“For industry forecast, we are going to work closely with our dealer partners and industry associations to make a more accurate projection, but we remain optimistic that 2022 will be a better year for the Philippine automotive industry.”
NISSAN PH, INC. PRESIDENT & MANAGING DIRECTOR ATSUSHI NAJIMA: REMAIN FLEXIBLE AND AGILE
“Nissan Philippines will maintain its strategy that it has adopted in the first two years of the pandemic. We will remain flexible and agile to the demands of our market while continuing to inspire and delight our customers at every touchpoint.
“While we cannot comment on future launches for now, we do understand how the current pandemic is affecting the automotive industry and have planned our launch timings accordingly.”
“While we cannot comment on company and industry projections for this year, Nissan is prepared for the challenges brought about by the recent surge. Together with the entire industry, we remain steadfast in providing the best products and customer experience that continue to enrich the lives of Filipinos.”
HONDA CARS PH, INC. PRESIDENT MASAHIKO NAKAMURA: REACH OUT TO CUSTOMERS
“HCPI will always be committed to providing top quality products and excellent service to our customers. We will always give our best effort to reach out to them and this is through our Virtual@Honda online dealership at www.hondaphil.com while the pandemic keeps us quarantined. The Virtual Showroom is a convenient and safe way for our customers to check our products and avail of after-sales service. We made sure it is user-friendly and loaded with all the helpful information. Through this, we are able to continuously serve our customers given the restrictions and mandates under the new normal.
“Furthermore, this January, we have the Choose Your Own Deals promo wherein huge promos and special deals are available for various models until end of the month. We hope that through these efforts, HCPI will be able to continuously thrive and be of utmost service for the Filipino people this 2022. “As of now, HCPI is doing its best in order to push through with our plan this 2022. With this, we would like to invite everyone to please support us this 2022 as we plan to inaugurate a new Honda dealership, and introduce three HCPI models.
“HCPI recognizes the challenges that the country is facing. Nevertheless, we remain hopeful and optimistic that Honda and the auto industry will overcome this rough start of the year and be on full recovery as planned. Of course, we will comply with health and safety protocols as we serve the Philippine market, while we also exert every effort to make sure that we are there for our customers, so that they can safely go to where they need to be.”
ISUZU PH CORP. VICE PRESIDENT FOR SALES YASUHIKO OYAMA: NEED TO ASSESS
Replying to the question on any adjustment in marketing strategy for the first half of the year: “At this point, we are currently reviewing the effect of the recent surge so we can respond with the conforming adjustment.’
Re new car launches: “Right now we still need to see how the current situation will affect the market before we decide if we need to change our model launch plans.”
Re projections for the industry: “Likewise, IPC needs to assess first the outcome of the situation. For now, our projection remains unchanged.”
Aida Sevilla Mendoza is fascinated by everything about cars: their power, styling, design, technology, craftmanship, exciting history of motor sport through the years, and the ever-evolving industry that creates them. But above all, she enjoys driving, especially on a traffic-free expressway where she feels the connection bonding her and the car.