If there's one automotive brand that we can reasonably fault for the negative perception of Chinese cars in the Philippine market, it's Chery.
Chery was the pioneer of the Chinese automotive industry's expansion into the Philippines in 2007, but to say they had a rocky start is an understatement. Despite a very strong initial showing with distributor Iseway with dealers popping up nationwide, a series of problems plagued them. Perhaps the most persistent was the distributor's after sales service and a very unhappy fleet customer.
It comes as no surprise that another group took over a few years later, but was then taken over by Chery themselves as Chery Philippines, appointed a nominee of one of Chery's executives as CEO. But it stands to reason that the bad taste left by the previous distributors meant that even the official Chery Philippines didn't last. The company was eventually dismantled by Chery in 2014, transferred their assets to another entity and pulled out, except for one service center in Abad Santos.
We thought Chery's departure was for good... until now. We have learned that another group is set to become the fourth iteration of Chery in the country.
And yes, it's the company behind Foton Philippines.
According to a source, the company led by Rommel Sytin, a group which includes Foton and United Auctioneers, is supposedly working at bringing back Chery automobiles to the Philippine market.
Now we can't be entirely sure how far their negotiations have come, but we do know from another insider that Sytin and his executives first went to Chery in China back in mid 2018, and that the first letter of intent came in mid 2017.
What we can be certain of is that Chery has been eager for a Philippine comeback. We say this because last year, we spotted that Chery posted an announcement on their website that they're looking for a new Philippine distributor. Also, our contact says that it was Chery that approached Sytin's group, not the other way around.
According to another insider, three groups have tried to evaluate the possibility of Chery's return prior to the United Auctioneers umbrella. One is a tie up that included Universal Motors Corporation or UMC which at the time, had just ceded their portion of the distributorship of Nissan to the then-new Nissan Philippines. The other was the Columbian group, which is currently responsible for Peugeot and Mahindra after signing over Kia to Ayala and BMW to San Miguel. And the third attempt supposedly came from the LICA Group which manages a very successful multi-brand auto dealership network that includes Chevrolet, Honda, Subaru, Hyundai, and even Foton. LICA eventually got the distributorship of JAC instead.
Judging by the influx of new Chinese auto brands, as well as selected Chinese models from some already established brands, the Philippines has become the Chinese auto industry's new prospective conquest, no political pun intended.
But can Sytin and his company resurrect a brand that has failed thrice before? Can they repeat their Foton success story with Chery, a marque that by many indications is un-revivable in the Philippines?
China's automobiles are a far cry from what they were 12 years ago when Chery first came in. There are still some that are glaring copies of foreign models, but there are quiet a few gems too with regards to design, vehicle quality, drive, and most definitely technology. And their industry wants to prove it on the world stage. Chery's cars have reportedly improved significantly, but since there had been no distributor for 5 years, we can't say for sure.
To say it's going to be an uphill battle is an understatement, but we think if there's one group that has the experience and perhaps the best chance of pulling it off, it's Sytin's. We just think it may take quite a bit of time and cost a quite a lot in brand rebuilding.
But don't take our word for it, let us know what you think in the comments.