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Why the Philippine International Motor Show matters

Why the Philippine International Motor Show matters

Mikko David

Tomorrow, September 15th is the start of the 8th Philippine International Motor Show. The highly anticipated motor show will mark the return of the biennial event after four years of hibernation. It makes perfect sense to conduct it this year as we move on from our lockdown strategies and open the economy towards normalcy.

As the Philippine automotive industry’s premier showcase of its latest wares and newest technologies, PIMS has always been an opportunity for the various competing automotive brands to unite and show their strength amidst the country’s economic challenges.

The Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc., or CAMPI, is the organization behind PIMS. Under its umbrella, the automotive industry has weathered challenges and emerged as a robust, united voice facing adversity. CAMPI is a peaceful organization, and it has repeatedly said it is ready to work with the government toward finding workable solutions to the industry’s myriad challenges.

The excise tax revamps under the Duterte administration’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion, or TRAIN Law effectively derailed the industry’s continuous growth in the last decade. With CAMPI’s then 16-member strong constituency virtually representing the most prominent players in the industry, it was able to unite and air its stand against TRAIN and come out with a workable excise tax scheme that didn’t put the prices of popular models beyond the consumers’ reach.

More recently, the spotlight was on CAMPI when the government imposed a Safeguard duty on imported assembled vehicles. According to its proponents, the move protected the local manufacturing industry, but it backfired and created more problems just when the industry started recovering from the COVID-19 lockdowns. A united front saw the industry work through this challenge despite its members being put in the spotlight by its customers for collecting money some say they may never even see again.

The current microchip shortage that automotive manufacturing is facing and the resulting global supply problem has also impacted the local car industry’s rebound. Together, members of CAMPI are putting up a brave face. The organization believes that the supply issues its members are experiencing will soon be solved, and customer orders will be satisfied.

Then, of course, perhaps the most significant challenge so far the industry has faced just as it was becoming a solid symbol of the country’s economic growth in the last two decades was the Covid-19 lockdowns. Because of the pandemic, the industry had to bear the business stoppage, and its members had to absorb the huge losses from zero sales. And when showrooms were finally allowed to operate around June 2020, they had to do so with limited staffing, salespeople had to don PPEs, and servicing had to be done by appointment. Some showrooms could no longer sustain the financial hit and closed permanently.

All the while, CAMPI stuck together. The organization continued reporting its monthly sales figures, always with a tinge of hope that the worst would be over. And as one united industry, it was able to push past the losses and come back with a vengeance.

More recently, at the start of this year, gas prices have shot up to figures never before seen in the market. Erratic and skyrocketing fuel costs made buying cars problematic and have changed how the industry responds to alternative energy mobility.

The 2020 motor show has been pushed back to 2022, but the clamor for electrification has grown since then. Parent companies have even announced their intention to electrify their lineup and reduce the production of Internal Combustion Engine vehicles over a timeline. Republic Act 11697, or the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act, lapsed into law last April and will undoubtedly impact how auto brands do business in the country. The new law makes legacy automakers rethink their mid- to long-term strategies while letting new players discover opportunities as they factor in electrification’s more prominent role in overall sales in the next few years.

As we await what member brands of CAMPI will display from tomorrow until Sunday at PIMS, we must also see the bigger picture of where the industry is heading. Hyundai and Kia are showcasing their latest EVs, the World Car of the Year Winner Ioniq5, and its twin, the Kia EV6. Both cars will undoubtedly draw massive interest from the crowds expected to flock back to the World Trade Center this weekend.

But what about the other brands? Toyota is sticking with its hybrids – the Prius, Rav4, Camry, Corolla Altis, and Corolla Cross while setting its sights on introducing its first EV, the bZ4X, in the Philippines soon. Once at the forefront of powertrain technology, Honda, on the other hand, continues to rely on its proven low-displacement turbocharged i-VTEC and CVT combo while selling hybrid versions of its models in the region.

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BWW has brought in the iX EV. The recently launched Kicks e-Power hybrid and the Leaf Battery EV are Nissan’s current answer to electrification, while Mitsubishi has the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid EV. Even new CAMPI member, Chery, has the Tiggo 8 Pro PHEV available to its customers as it responds to the market’s growing interest in sustainable mobility.

Electrification will be centerstage at this year’s PIMS. And it is up to the legacy brands, which are members of CAMPI, to tell Filipino car buyers that they are listening to what they want by showcasing electrified options in their 2023 and beyond lineup.

While the implementing rules and regulations, or IRR, of the EVIDA law, are yet to be disseminated, it is only a matter of time before the next major shift in automotive products and strategy happens in the country. Who knows, two years from now, at the next PIMS, we might have a different ratio of ICE cars versus EVs on display.

In the first PIMS 15 years ago, small-displacement turbocharged engines were the big thing. Years later, the wave of hybrids followed. But such is the pace of development and technology that even that may no longer be enough to answer to the demand of the local and global market towards a possibly fully electric future. And this is perhaps this is the latest challenge CAMPI will have to face together – relevancy.

As we have seen in recent history, the pace of development can be quick and disruptive. Now, more than ever, the industry should come together to realize that nothing is constant except change.