As you may know by now the Philippine auto industry is expected to take a big hit in 2020. Two months of zero sales mean zero revenue, but the auto industry is looking to bounce back for the rest of the year even if -by all indications- the economic outlook is not very positive.
The situation is a bit different for Chinese automotive brands in the country. Many new Chinese automobile companies entered (or re-entered) the market, making serious investments in sales and marketing to capitalize on a greatly improved range of products to gain market share from the People's Republic.
The coronavirus, however, is the unexpected curveball. The highly contagious virus that originated in Wuhan, China has infected 4.44 million people and caused 302,000 casualties worldwide. In the local setting, there are now over 11,000 confirmed cases and nearly 800 deaths.
The result is a veritable lockdown of many countries, disrupted lives, impacted economies, and layoffs in every affected market. So it comes as no surprise that there is a renewed negative public perception towards Chinese products, including automobiles.
So how do companies intend to fight this battle of public opinion and bad press associated with Chinese products? That's what we asked the executives of Sojitz G Auto Philippines, the official distributor of Chinese automaker Geely, during a Zoom meeting.
"Yes Geely is a Chinese brand and seemingly receiving negative perception just by association on this COVID issue, but we're confident we can push past the negativity on the strength of our products." said Froilan Dytiannquin, General Manager of Sales and Marketing for Sojitz G Auto Philippines.
Dytianquin said that the company will forge ahead by proving the capabilities and advantages of their products in order to overcome the negative perception brought about by a situation beyond their control.
"I guess for some products like vehicles it may have an impact, but we might as well take the time to prove our brand and our products' worth. This is how we should be able to counter that wrong perception to associate COVID-19 with Chinese brands like Geely." continued Dytianquin.
In late 2019, Geely made significant headway in the domestic auto industry with the launch of the brand and the launch of the Coolray subcompact crossover. Just before COVID-19 hit the Philippines, they were planning to launch a new model called the Azkarra with mild hybrid technology, as well as open new dealerships in other parts of the country. All those have been delayed of course.
Right now the company is preparing for the “new normal” when their flagship dealership and main office reopen in Quezon City reopens under the Modified ECQ. Time will tell how the perception will affect sales, but Geely Philippines is confident they can push past it.
"There wasn't much in the way of customer cancellations during COVID-19," said Yosuke Nishi, Executive Vice President of Sojitz G Auto Philippines. "Our customers still believe in Geely vehicles and their performance."