In the last few months, we've seen all kinds of new vehicle launches in the Philippines... albeit online.

The COVID-19 pandemic has really forced the auto industry -a business that thrives on grand launches with lights, effects, and elaborate dance routines during car launches- to go online and livestream their new car introductions for the local market. We've seen all kinds of new cars, trucks, SUVs, and even vans launched online.

Today, Mazda has launched something new: the Build Your Personal MX-5 program. This allows interested customers to personalize their MX-5 with the preferred color, transmission, and shade of soft-top of their choosing which you'll be able to read about in a separate article. But we did take the opportunity to ask Steven Tan, the CEO of Mazda Philippines a question: how has the pandemic affected buyer preferences when it comes to emotional cars?

Mazda, as you know, is a Japanese purveyor of cars that are more emotional, more passionate, and more niche than many of its compatriot brands like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, or even Honda. Their cars are more about delivering better driving pleasure rather than going for mass market digits by toning down the driving experience.

Did pandemic affect demand for more emotional cars like Mazda? image

Thankfully Steven was in an answering mood.

“Buying any car is an emotional decision. When you get a bunch of guys sitting down and having drinks, the conversation goes to cars,” said Steven Tan, Mazda Philippines CEO. “Mazdas have always been passionate cars. If a car has a lot of passion, it plays a role in consideration.”

The pandemic, however, has changed a lot of things about the auto industry. Sales are down in a big way and car companies are introducing some exceptional discounts and extremely attractive payment options in order to stimulate market demand. What about a company that prides itself on producing a car that isn't just about getting from point A to B, but about delivering driving enjoyment as it does so?

“Yes, our business volume has come down, but I was pleasantly surprised that people continue to choose Mazda. Our Mazda3, which we launched at the same time last year, is doing really well. In the SUV category the CX-9, CX-8, and CX-5 are doing well too,” continued Tan.

Steven sees the pandemic's effects as a litmus test of sorts for the brand his company represents in the Philippine market.

“Mazda invests in emotional cars, and this is the test. Emotional cars are not commodities and are being chosen by people. There are many families that choose Mazda because they like the design, the emotion, quality, and the way it drives. I think Mazda has invested in the right strategy.”

This can be seen by the demand for the Mazda MX-5. Steven recounts that they did have 25 units, but were able to sell off the remaining MX-5 stocks in three weeks.

“There's a certain resiliency with the Philippine market,” said the boss of Mazda Philippines.