There will be a new player soon in the commercial vehicle segment in the Philippines, and it's going to come from Russia.
GAZ, the Russian company that is better known for military vehicles, will be entering the Philippine market after the domestic distributor, Gazelle Motors Corporation, received the first shipment of units from GAZ in Russia. This will be the first time that the brand's models will be offered in the Philippine market; the news is also interesting given that the distributor is a part of the Eastern Petroleum Group of Companies.
"We have received the Gazelle Next Van and Gazelle Next Citiline and are warehoused in our facility in Pasig City," said Dr. Fernando Martinez, Eastern Petroleum Group's chairman and chief executive. "This is a milestone for our group as this confirms our Russian partner's commitment to market its vehicles in the Philippines and reaffirms their support to the government's transport modernization program."
The company also said that the partnership between Eastern Petroleum and GAZ Group of Russia was initiated during President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to Moscow in May 2017. During the Comtrans show in Russia in September, the two parties signed the agreement for Eastern Petroleum to become the Philippine distributor.
GAZ stands for Gorkovsky Avtumobilny Zavod, which is essentially Gorky Automobile Plant. The company began operations in Russia in 1932 as a collaboration between the former Soviet Union government and Ford. GAZ has a long history of mass producing vehicles, particularly for the use of their armed forces such as military transport trucks.
GAZ will be initially launched in the Philippines with one key model: the Gazelle Next (stylized as the GAZelle Next). Despite its size (which is comparable to the Hyundai H350/Volkswagen Crafter), the Next is actually the smallest model in the GAZ portfolio.
In this line, there will be two primary variants, the first being offered as a versatile multi-purpose van suitable for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The other key variant is the Citiline, a minibus-like model that GAZ envisions as a contender for the PUV Modernization Program of the Department of Transportation. In fact, Gazelle Motors Corporation is looking at localizing some of the components.
Eventually GAZ will be offering a wider range of models to cater to commercial customers with larger trucks and utility vehicles. The Gazelle Motor Corporation is aiming to bring these models into the Philippines in time for the Manila International Auto Show.
GAZ and its subsidiaries also made a wide variety of armored fighting vehicles for the Soviet (later Russian) army such as the BTR-90, BTR-80, BTR-70 and BTR-60 armored amphibious personnel carriers. They also made the BRDM-2 infantry fighting vehicle.
GAZ also manufactured executive cars in the latter half of the 20th century; the GAZ M23 became popular as the vehicle of choice of government agencies, particularly the KGB. Today, however, GAZ has ceased manufacturing passenger car models.
Gazelle Motors Corporation haven't released any prices yet for their models, but we have been assured that pricing and vehicle quality will be very competitive.