So here's a bit of news from the auto industry. There's been a bit of buzz around the the re-entry of a Chinese brand in the Philippine market; that brand being Changan.
Many domestic companies made their bids to be the next distributor of Changan, with rumors saying that it was the Philippine distributor of Hyundai, or Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI), that eventually won. And now we can confirm it.
If you drive along the auto dealership row on Quezon Avenue in Quezon City, there's something odd about the Hyundai dealership: they're busy setting up a Changan section in their facility. It is not a separate facility, as one side of the dealership is now being rebuilt to showcase Changan's vehicles.
The dealer refused to comment, but it was quite clear with the Changan logo and signboard in full public view. So that pretty much confirms it, but after consulting with a few sources, we were also able to find out the name of the new distributor.
According to our contacts, the new distributor will be known as Changan Motor Philippines, Inc. or CMPI. Unusually, those were the same initials as a previous Chery distributor. Ironically, the initials are very close to the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI). HARI, after all, is one of the lead organizations that founded the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors or AVID which was seen as a counterpoint to CAMPI.
There was already a company that was distributing Changan models in the Philippines: the same company behind Mazda. However, that distributor focused on their light commercial vehicle line up; meaning mostly the micro vans and MPVs. Changan's model line up is far more diverse, opening the door for other distributors for the rest of the line up much in the same way that Nissan was once marketed by two different companies; Universal Motor Corporation (UMC) handled the commercial vehicle/SUV/pick-up side of Nissan, while Nissan Motor Philippines, Inc. (NMPI) marketed the passenger car side. This was the set-up for quite a long time prior to the unification of the brand under the singular Nissan distributor which is NPI.
Now, what is the distributor of Hyundai in the Philippines doing investing in a new auto brand for the local market? Of course, we're starting to see significant improvement in the quality of vehicles from China, and local customers are starting to accept such models. This holds particularly true for attractively-priced vehicles that significantly undercut similar models from other, more established brands that are starting to be considered more premium overall.
Hyundai's current pricing structure reflects this trend, as year on year Hyundai's prices have started to increase significantly. Having a more affordable mass-market brand will enable the company to generate more sales. The move is also interesting given how HARI has experience with a similar challenge building the Hyundai brand; a marque that was once seen as the more affordable alternative to Japanese automobiles. What Hyundai was to Toyota at the time is what Changan will be to Hyundai.
As to what models they will offer, we don't know. But perhaps now is a good time to do some digging for what Changan's new distributor would sell in our very diverse auto market.