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Mikko David

Changes at the top and even in the middle of the management ladder are shaking up the auto industry

Suppose you’ve been following the automotive industry for the last three decades. In that case, you’ll get the general impression that, like any business, it is the people behind working sleepless nights who define the kind of experience you will have with their products and services.

While the brands have guidelines or standards to follow, the locals who run the show will ultimately implement these standards at the frontlines.

So when you hear of career moves by mid to top-level executives of a brand, you know they will be bringing along, not only their management expertise, but also their skills in dealing with customers as ambassadors of the brand. And chances are, they were considered for their new jobs because they could sell the brand.

With the influx of Chinese brands in recent years, the number of car industry executives has increased. However, the tight crop of industry veterans from Japanese car brands still seems in demand. Their clear advantage over the new names in the industry is that they know the prerequisites of running a car brand.

One of the most notable movements that will be confirmed soon is the transfer of an industry veteran from his consultancy role in Geely Philippines to another popular brand. For Froilan Dytianquin, it is sort of a comeback, as his departure from the top levels of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation a few years ago caught everyone by surprise. Speaking of surprises, is it a coincidence then that Geely Philippines’ event and PR supervisor, Jelene Sulit, has also left the company?

But Dytianquin is not the only senior car industry executive who will join the “Rigodon de Honor.” Japheth Castillo, the former president of Ssangyong Berjaya Motor Philippines and Berjaya Auto Asia, has left his post and reliable sources say he’s going to head the new distributorship of Ferrari in the Philippines.

Now under San Miguel Corporation, the sports car brand will hopefully turn around the lackluster sales of the former distributor. Castillo’s experience with Mazda Philippines, Ford Philippines, and Toyota Motor Philippines should come in handy in running the new operation. Former CATS marketing executive Satchi Ang-Bargas is reportedly also joining the new Ferrari team.

Nelda Gutierrez and Stacey Vasquez have also left their managerial positions at Isuzu and Volkswagen, respectively, and should be taking on the same – or even higher – positions in other brands soon.

Speaking of new operations, the industry is abuzz about the entrance of SAIC Motor Philippines. As a subsidiary of SAIC Motor Ltd., China’s largest state-owned car manufacturer, its full-on arrival sends a clear signal that China is serious about our growing market.

The current distributor of MG vehicles in the country, The Covenant Car Company Inc., has reportedly been offered to handle the aftersales component of the business, and SAIC will take over the brand’s operations. While an official statement from TCCCI is not yet available as of press time, it would appear that a final deal or agreement with TCCCI has yet to be reached. The two former business parting ways also remains a possibility.

SAIC Motor Philippines has also been on a hiring spree in the past few months. According to our sources, key positions in marketing have reportedly been filled up. And eliminating the middle man from the equation might spell the entry of more MG models and possibly Battery Electric Vehicles from the brand.

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The arrival of the mother company as full-on subsidiaries of the brand should also be of concern to the industry. Hyundai Motor Philippines took over the brand’s business from former distributor Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (HARI). Nissan Motor Philippines sorted out the mess of having two brand distributors in the country by taking over the operations of both Yulon Taiwan-held Nissan Motor Philippines, Inc. and Universal Motors Corporation, which sold the brand’s commercial vehicles. Changan hopped from Berjaya Auto Asia to HARI in a blink of an eye.

So the phenomenon is not new, especially for brands willing to invest in their local operations, which leads us to an important point. Philippine distributor-partners who haven’t been delivering sales numbers might wake up one day with the plug pulled from their businesses.

BYD, for example, has been around locally for a decade, but its business hasn’t really flourished compared to the likes of Geely, Chery, or MG. And with its electric vehicles in high demand in other countries, it is a wonder how BYD in China can sit down and see lost opportunities each day it hasn’t set up shop in the country with a subsidiary. But BYD itself is coming; make no mistake about it. What will happen to its current distributor in the Philippines remains to be seen.

And there are a few more China brands arriving soon Omoda, Jaecoo, Exceed, BAW. It’s no surprise, therefore, that industry executives are now weighing their options. Possibly even some European brands as well, like Citroen. So the opportunities are there for the picking.

And if you’re an automotive executive looking for greener pastures and have a worthy enough CV, Subaru Philippines is again looking for a country manager and Chery Auto PH just recently let go of its top guy. You might want to ring them up.