Joint venture set to launch e-jeepneys, e-scooters in PH
A lot of hype and buzz swirl about when the topic of total electrification among the world’s top car makers comes up. It’s a game-changing transition, no doubt, as the global automotive industry transforms all aspects of the business into a totally new mobility landscape.
While many automotive players have been vocal about their plans, some are working their way to this big change quietly. One local automotive distributor that belongs in the latter has been Columbian Group of Companies, whose no-nonsense COO Felix Mabilog Jr., a mechanical engineer, has steered the company throughout nearly five decades.
At 82, this top executive whom I once called “The man with the iron fist” feels he has more than enough left in his tank to punch his way through this new age of mobility.
Mabilog has read the wiring, er, writing on the wall, and the group, via Terrafirma Motors Corp (TMC), is quietly working its way to become a substantial player in electrified mobility by next year.
Mabilog recently confirmed that the group has been “looking at bringing in electric-driven modern jeepneys in the near future under TMC.”
Mabilog is the president of TMC, Columbian Autocar Corp (where he’s also the COO) and Mahindra Philippines. He also once led Eurobrands Distributor Inc (former importer and distributor of Peugeot in the country) as its president and COO.
More than just bringing in e-jeepneys, TMC is also bringing in electric scooters, which Mabilog confirmed to me would be the Hero brand from India.
In case you haven’t heard of that name, Hero MotoCorp is “merely” the world’s largest manufacturer of two-wheelers. And just recently, it launched its first electric vehicle (EV), the VIDA V1 scooter.
Mabilog confirmed that the VIDA V1 will also be introduced in the Philippines. “The VIDA V1 is among the Hero motorcycle models that will be introduced in the Philippines during our scheduled brand and product launching in the last quarter of 2023 or first quarter of 2024. It will be the model that will define the Hero brand and hopefully will make an impact in the local motorcycle market,” Mabilog told me a week ago.
Consequently, TMC has been prepping a 29,000-sqm assembly facility in its Laguna plant, in time for the start of its operations mid-2024 when it becomes the exclusive assembler and distributor of the motorcycles.
TMC chair Bienvenido Sanvictores Santos said, “Hero MotoCorp, the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, has been the most trusted brand partner for more than 100 million customers all over the world. TMC is a customer-centric automotive company with the vision to be the ultimate choice for value-based products and services in the Philippines. This is a coming together of two visionary companies and the new partnership will lead us to new horizons by enabling us to deliver modern, technologically superior and eco-friendly mobility solutions to our customers here.”
Sanjay Bhan, head of global business for Hero MotoCorp, said in a statement: “In keeping with our R4 (recalibrate, revitalize, revolutionize and revive) strategy, we are always keenly exploring new opportunities in global markets. Our partnership with TMC to enter the Southeast Asian region is an integral part of this expansion strategy. The trust and technology prowess of Hero MotoCorp combined with TMC’s automotive expertise and network in the Philippines will definitely create an impact and strengthen our footprint in this key market.”
Time is ripe
According to EV industry analysts, the time is ripe for two- and three-wheeled EVs to make their presence felt in the country. Ferdinand Raquelsantos, Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP) chair emeritus, estimated that, based on the association listing, “For the last three years, the average number of e-motorcycles (rolling out) have been 650 units per year, while e-trikes number 150 units (per year).”
He added: “From about 6 percent of commercial vehicles being electric-powered, I see this segment growing to about 10 percent. I can also forecast the increased numbers of e-kick scooters, as this is very practical for urban mobility.”