Daihatsu might not be around in the Philippines anymore, but some of their models left an impact here. There's the Charade, Feroza, and the utilitarian Hijet. Curiously, the Hijet has the distinction of being one of Japan's oldest-running nameplates. This year, the little van turns 60.
From the start, the Hijet was intended to be a microvan and mini truck. The first-generation, introduced in November 1960, was as simple as it gets. It was a no-frills hauler, and its sole purpose was to deliver goods all over Japan without resorting to using a massive pick-up truck. In many ways, it helped a lot of small businesses in Japan, and it's something it does to this day. At less than three meters long, it's a tiny vehicle even by the standards of the decade.
But it was the second-generation that adapted the familiar one-box shape for the rest of its life. It still didn't come with sliding doors though, but that would be rectified by the fourth-generation in 1971. Fast forward to 1984, and we land at the seventh-generation Hijet. It is, perhaps, the most popular model and the one that's in the memory of most Filipinos.
Some of you might remember these vans as the roving service vehicle of PLDT. If not, then let's jog your memory a little bit. These Hijets were colored yellow with black stripes and had the classic PLDT logo plastered on its body.
The seventh-generation Hijet is still around even to this day. It's no longer made by Daihatsu, but the van lives on as the Piaggio Porter. Piaggio has been building the licensed version of the Hijet since 1992, and it's outlived the original model for well over 20 years now.
Sadly, Daihatsu left the Philippine market in the mid-'90s, so we didn't see the succeeding generations sold here, at least through official dealership channels. Still, it's going strong in Japan and Indonesia with the eighth, ninth, and current generations being sold there. And while it's grown up a lot over the decades, it remains close to its roots.
Daihatsu isn't in the Philippines anymore, but their products live on in several Toyota models. The Wigo, Avanza, and Rush are Daihatsu-developed vehicles for emerging markets. Perhaps there's room for another Daihatsu-based car in the Philippines. How does the idea of a Toyota-badged Hijet sound like to you?