Text: Anton Andres / Photos: Manufacturer press, Brent Co | posted June 12, 2015 09:43
We pay tribute to the hardest working cars in the country: The AUV
The AUV has always had a special place in the heart of Filipinos.
Even before the term MPV was created, many Filipinos have looked for cars that can used personally, can carry loads and carry a lot of people.
With a family sedan being too small and a pickup not having enough seats, the AUV, or Asian Utility Vehicle was born. Filipinos have been buying them from the moment they came out and have doing so ever since. Be it for businesses or families, AUV's have been a part of Filipino living. For our Independence Day special, we take a look at the history of the AUV and the models that have come and paved the way for the modern Asian MPV.
We begin our AUV story with the Jeepney. After the war, the American forces had left behind their old Jeeps and made for either public or private use for the Filipinos. While not officially called AUV's, the need for transport was answered by the Jeepney and still roams the roads of the country, albeit no longer based on the Willy's platform.
Import restrictions leading up to the 70's led to the creation of the Progressive Car Manufacturing Program or PCMP. The program necessitated the local sourcing of automotive components and thus, the birth of the AUV. One of the popular products of the program was the Toyota Tamaraw, introduced in 1976. Called the Kijang outside the Philippines, the Tamaraw was manufactured in the Philippines under the Delta Motor Corporation. It was powered by a 1.2 liter Toyota 3K motor and was an alternative to the jeepney. The name Tamaraw would stay in the minds of the Filipino consumers for over 20 years.
Ford's entry for the AUV market was the Fiera. There were three generations of this Asia-Pacific special Ford. The first Fiera was powered by the familiar OHV engine seen in the Ford Escort. The Fiera II had an option of a diesel engine made by Perkins. Because of its popularity, the generic term for the AUV during that time became fiera.
The final Fiera, the Fiera III was launched at the height of political unrest, which led to Ford leaving the Philippine Market. To remind ourselves how the Fiera looked like, check out the TVC above starring the late, great Rod Navarro.
Wanting a piece of the AUV market, General Motors also made their own people carrier. Called the GM Harabas, it was the smallest of the AUV's but was the most car-like among its contemporaries. It came in either jeep-style configurations or taxi style with pillar hinged doors.
Before the Mitsubishi L300 FB, there was the Cimarron. It predates the popular Tamaraw and Fiera by a whole decade, introduced as far back as 1961. Like its successor, the Cimarron's engine was mounted under the driver's seat and was powered by the Mitsubishi Astron engine, as seen in the Mitsubishi Colt. While it's a rare sight to see a Cimarron on the road, it can still be seen in provinces as a jeepney. The Cimarron soldiered on until the introduction of the Mitsubishi L300.
Besides Mitsubishi, another survivor of Martial Law was Francisco Motor Corporation or FMC. They had previously made the FMC Pinoy AUV which was based on the Mazda Pickup. They soon made a larger variant called the Anfra which was sold until 2004. Like the FMC Pinoy, the Anfra was based on Mazda Pickup, also known as the Ford Courier, which later became the Ranger.
After Ford left the Philippines in 1984, Pilipinas Nissan bought the rights to produce the Fiera IV under the name Nissan Bida. While Ford and Nissan deals seem unlikely, the two brands had already been collaborating in Australia with the Nissan Bluebird and Ford Corsair. After Martial Law, the fiera market was back on its feet with the Bida butting heads with FMC's Anfra and Mitsubishi's L300, the Cimarron's successor.
The Mitsubishi Delica has been around in Japan since 1979 but the Philippines only got the Delica, by the name of L300, in 1983. It took another 4 years for the FB AUV variant to arrive and has since been a stalwart of businesses and school bus operators. Powered by the 4D56 engine, the naturally aspirated diesel engine is placed below the driver's seat, just like its predecessor, the Cimarron. The Versa Van trailed off in 2011 but the FB variant, along with the truck and container van variants, live on to this day and are still being made in Mitsubishi's plant in Laguna.
The resurgence of the automotive industry continued with the return of Toyota under the Metrobank-George Ty group to form Toyota Motor Philippines. This also marked the return of the Tamaraw, now called the Tamaraw FX. Introduced in the early 90's the Tamaraw FX looked more like a tall station wagon than fiera. It came with two engines, a carbureted 1.8 liter gas engine called the 7K-C and a diesel called the 2C. Thanks to its 10 seat capacity, the Tamaraw FX also gave birth to a new kind of public transport was initially called Garage Service. These AUV's would wait at terminals and wait for the vehicles to be fully loaded, much like a jeepney. This time, commuters had the option of getting places in more comfort compared to riding jeeps. Eventually, the generic term for this kind of transport was called FX.
Not to be outdone, Isuzu brought out their contender for the hotly contested AUV segment, the Hi-Lander. Called the Panther outside the Philippines, it was a 10 seater AUV that mixed business and personal use with more car-like appointments such as air-conditioning and, on top spec models, power windows. It was aimed squarely at the Tamaraw FX and also proved to be a very popular choice with Garage Service operators. Isuzu, being diesel specialists, had just one engine option for the Hi-Lander, a 2.5 liter diesel.
Mitsubishi caught up with the AUV craze of the 90's with the Adventure. Like the previous two mentioned, its tall wagon-like appearance could seat 10 passengers. Interestingly, the Adventure shared components with the Isuzu Hi-Lander. The Adventure had a wide variety of variants and two engine selections. The gas variants came with the familiar 4G63 engine while its diesel shared the same 4D56 engine as seen in the L300. As time progressed, there were soon less utility oriented models such as the GLS Sport and Super Sport variants but the Adventure stuck to its people carrier roots and can still carry 10 passengers for base and mid-level trims.
In 1998, a revolution in AUV's came in the form of the Toyota Tamaraw FX Revo. More popularly known as the Revo, Toyota's AUV cam with levels of refinement and comfort previously unheard of in its segment. Based on experience, the Revo was a quantum leap in terms of design, refinement and driving dynamics compared to the old Tamaraw FX. The gas engine finally received electronic fuel injection which helped reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels. The Revo didn't leave its AUV roots behind. It still sat 10 passengers but with more car-like levels of comfort. The Revo was such a popular model that it overtook the sales of Toyota's own popular sedan, the Corolla.
As the new millennium approached, the three major players in the AUV market revised their models for the 2000's. Mitsubishi updated its Adventure, Toyota gave the Revo luxury and sporty variants and Isuzu brought out the Crosswind.
For 2001, the Crosswind replaced the Hi-Lander as Isuzu's AUV contender. Following in the footsteps of the Revo, it was more refined than its predecessor and looked more SUV than AUV in some angles, particularly with the XUVi and Sportivo variants. Now in its 14th year in production, the Crosswind remains a popular choice for fleets, businesses and families across the country.
These days, the line between AUV's and MPV's are blurry. Toyota retired the Revo in 2005 and Mitsubishi sold the Fuzion alongside the Adventure. While the Innova still sits on a body-on-frame chassis, it looks more like an MPV and can no longer seat 10 people. While it would appear as though the original format of AUV's are under threat with the new MPV's, these do-everything vehicles still cater to a lot of consumers. The fact that the Mitsubishi Adventure, a car now reaching its 18th year in production, has outlived the Fuzion speaks volumes about its popularity.
It's been over 50 years since the AUV was born, a vehicle made from necessity but has become an extended family member for many of us and it all began with the good old Jeepney.
(Special thanks to Tito Hermoso for the added input)