Text: Tito F. Hermoso / Photos: | posted January 14, 2011 11:38
More fuel to the fire
No more boring banner headlines?
This list reflects the changing tastes and efforts of both car manufacturers and car buyers alike, making this banner sales year most different from the usual Mitsubishi vs. Nissan, Toyota vs. Honda or Toyota vs. Mitsubishi 2 way pitched battles that used to characterize 30 years of Philippine auto sales. True, the usual suspects - Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda, Isuzu - are still in the top 5, but all are keeping an eye out for today's new Number 3 - and rising - Hyundai. Also 2010 is largely characterized when legit car importers and assemblers did not have to contend with sales stealing Port Irene and Subic imports. Here is our tongue in cheek, back of the napkin list, and it comes with purely subjective justification:
Twenty one cars
Kia Sorento CRDi - Whether Filipinos care to know Peter Schreyer or not, there are many of them who like his clean and solid designs, as embodied in the Sorento. Earning an Auto Focus People's Choice award, the diesel 6-speed version is the one buyers wait months on order and put a down payment for.
Kia Soul - How many people have seen a Soul and not do a double take? Besides the MINI, it is one of the most cheerful designs ever to hit local streets. Though sales would most likely remain small in number, credit the Soul for drawing in showroom traffic, with customers driving out with Carens, Rios, Carnivals and Sportages. Shows that Filipinos, though enamored to slick attention grabbing design, will, in the end, plunk their hard earned money on the practical.
Hyundai Tucson - Oh how the mighty have fallen! Within a year, this sexily styled compact SUV has catapulted Hyundai to national number 3. The envy poster boy of 2010. Sparked the war between CBU and CKD.
Hyundai Sonata - It should have been a mongrel mix: Jaguar XJ looks, Audi A4 feel and Toyota Camry solidity and price. But the Sonata is the most exciting looking and exciting feeling car ever to hit the conservative exec class sedan segment [since the previous Mazda6]. If only the factory can satisfy Philippine demand.
Foton View - Ambulance chasing sales? When the PCSO buys 300 ambulances from China's biggest truck maker, there must be something in it. Perhaps its because the View looks like an engorged version of the Subic imported Hi-Ace meant it would have instant and trusting fans on looks alone. Priced a little over a well equipped Toyota Altis, its an irresistible bargain.
Subaru Legacy GT Turbo - If you wanted a Subaru company car, it would have been difficult to get the manual only STI as it may not look tame enough for the office commute. It would have been hard to justify a Forester SUV as many fleet accountants can't seem to classify a SUV under the accounting entry "car". The Legacy gives the executive the excuse to own a Subaru as an executive perk. Just don't bother explaining to the bean counters what turbo means.
Ford Focus TDCi Sedan - A case of finally finally. Asia thinks a car is a 3-box sedan and if Ford wanted more of its rallye-bred diesel-fed pocket rocket, it just had to ditch the idea that Filipinos will someday warm to the hatch. Never too late...
Ford Fiesta - Ford finally gets its One world one car act in the sub compact segment. No longer stuck to throwing the category to Mazda, Ford's facebook launch of the Fiesta is as significant as the first Escort launched for Asia in 1969. But you have to drive it to learn how different and how much better it is from the run of the mill sub compact.
Ford E-150 - Forget the Starex and the Hi-Ace. They've made their mark eons ago. They're commodity. By all accounts no one should even buy the E-150 here in the Philippines. Its platform dates back to the 70s service vans of the US Armed Forces in the Pacific. Its truck heavy, truck big and with a V-8, truck thirsty. But no other van can ride as smoothly and fit as many in spacious comfort, especially when the security detail has to chase the political honcho in a big 300hp Expedition. Proves that Dinosaurs still have a role to play, and dare we say, are indeed irreplaceable?
Mazda CX-7 - Sex sells. Look at all its curves. Look at its engine specs. Though this is a very competitive segment, the CX-7 just plainly out-sexes them all. You can put a mediocre engine and suspension, and it will still be worth queueing for. Problem is, for the competition, its engine, drivetrain and suspension is anything but mediocre.
Mazda 2 - Living proof that less is more. More spacious with out a weight gain. All that weight paring did not make the car buzzy too. Less weight made the car as fast as more powerful cars in its segment, and thriftier to boot. Mazda argues, why buy mainstream anyway?
Chevrolet Cruze - Sleek looks, 6-speed transmission, best in class space, quiet, solid, Chevrolet virtues at a Civic-competitive price. Boring? Not if you like Ryan Agoncillo. And Chevrolet is no mere boring mainstream compact. BRE- Blanco Race Engineering competes with a couple. New image, new car. Chevrolet revives the notion that motorsports sells.
Volvo XC 60 - Though other expensive marques can be had with something like City Safe automatic accident avoidance braking, no other brand makes a virtue of it. And it does not end there as the XC 60 paved the way for the next game changer - the S60 pedestrian avoiding sports sedan.
Volvo S60 - Oh, not only does it stop for pedestrians, but it also warns a drowsy driver that strays from keeping his/her lane. The T6 all wheel drive is monstrously powerful and drives exactly like its higher priced German rivals, which is, to me, the more remarkable achievement.
Lexus RX 450 hybrid - Its sheer modernity and refinement made the RX350 take away from the Cayenne and X-5 shopper, but with the 450, no other premium SUV has luxury tied in with environmental responsibility. There simply is no other competition in this segment.
Lexus LS 600 hybrid L - There are luxury cars out there that have hybrid drive, but none of them come with such space, quiet elegance and majesty. There is no need to be morally conflicted when owning and using one of these. If you need something grander, it can only be a Rolls Royce Phantom or a Bentley Mulsanne.
Porsche Panamera - Like the Cayenne before it, another controversial 4-door Porsche. But not if you already have a stable of 911 GT3's and Turbo's. Again, history repeats itself as the Panamera was the company's recession sales saver. Curiously, unlike most other PGA sold Porsches where the S and turbo versions out number the regular version, the Panamera is more common with the base 300hp V6. Does this mean that Boss wouldn't want his chauffeur to have the same fun he has when he drives his GT3?
Nissan X-trail - Significant because it is, , Made in the Philippines, and  looks like a longer version of its previous generation though it is completely new from the ground up. One thing they didn't change is the excellent lounge like seats. Proves that fear of the anger of fans can keep engineers from fiddling with what should be left well enough alone. Hugely improved even if it doesn't look it.
Nissan Sentra - "Hecho en Mexico" - that alone is significant for history buffs of the Acapulco Galleon trade. But the Sentra has become an entirely different animal from the pure Asian car with so-so suspension dynamics to a genuinely characterful car. Not French, not Japanese, not Freeway USA, but exclusively Mexican. After the VW Brasilia of the 70's the Sentra reintroduces Latin American flair.
MINI Cooper S - Cheerful, 50 years and counting. Almost everyone who ever went into the MINI's amusing showroom was drawn in by cheerfulness of the MINI Cooper. Sure, space considerations will point to the Clubman or even the upcoming 4-door Countryman SUV. But in the end, the draw of the original Cooper is irresistible. For a little bit more, the turbo S beckons. The MINI, undeniably, is as magnetic as ever and makes being practical, impractical.
Toyota Vios 1.3 Automatic - How could the most common car on the country's roads be significant? Well apart from know-it-all taxi drivers who drive around with the hood half-cocked, thinking that they can avoid regular maintenance by giving it more air and apart from its sheer number, the long delayed introduction of a 1.3-liter automatic. Now that it has it, sales have shot even further away from its main rival, the sub-compact that used to lord it over the 1.3-liter automatic class.