2018 was quite the ride, wasn't it?

From a motoring standpoint, there were a number of highlights that made the year rather interesting. While 2018 sounded like a bit of a struggle in motoring, there were still a couple of good things that came out of it.

So here are just some of the highs and lows of the year that was, 2018.

All aboard TRAIN

We started 2018 with the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law. The Act saw car prices go up, particularly in the Php 1 million to Php 2 million bracket. Needless to say, nationwide sales were down for the first time in nine years after nearly a decade of steady growth. To counter that, some brands opted to freeze their 2017 prices, but prices inevitably still went up as stocks from the previous year dried up.

The taxman makes adjustments

The TRAIN Law did benefit two types of vehicles. These are pickup trucks and hybrid vehicles. With no tax imposed on pickup trucks, sales of these vehicles grew while other segments needed months to find their footing with the new prices. Hybrid prices were also slashed by some automakers, although we're yet to see more consumers taking the gas-electric route.

On the flipside however, fuel duty tax went up in 2018. Taxes for unleaded fuel jumped to Php 7 per liter, and diesel gots levied an additional Php 2.50.

End of Uber in Southeast Asia

In one of the biggest surprises of 2018, Grab took over all of Uber's Southeast Asian operations during the first half of that year. At the time, Uber was reporting heavy losses in the region. Bleeding money, Uber sold the lot to Grab, and packed their bags in the ASEAN region, much to the dismay of local ride share users. While there have been start-ups trying to fill in the void, Grab still has a stronghold in the country.

The LTO and the off-road mod saga

Off-roaders were just about ready to storm the Land Transportation Office when the agency cracked down on modded rigs. The LTO's Director for Law Enforcement Service, Francis Almora, response to angry off-roaders didn't help matters either, stating that the mods were in violation of Presidential Decree 96.

He then added, “What is the purpose of these modifications? Off-roading. Therefore, they are not for the highways. You should not drive it in the national roads because that is dangerous. You modified it for a special purpose, off-road. Then why do you bring it to the national road?”. Cue the angry mob.

Some owners were flagged down due to off-road upgrades they made to their vehicle, while others weren't even allowed to renew their registration unless the parts were removed. However, LTO Executive Director Romeo Vera Cruz said that there is no active operation citing modified 4x4s. Things were eventually resolved following a dialogue with the off-road community.

A new Bill on Reckless Imprudence

And now, for a bit of good news. It wasn't all gloom and doom in 2018 and one Solon made it a mission to revise the law to amend the law on reckless imprudence.

Rep. Neil Abayon filed House Bill 6925, also known as the Philippine Responsible Driving and Accountability Act. “Under current laws and procedures, drivers or motorists involved in road safety incidents and traffic violations are presumed at fault even when pedestrians an/or other motorists are at fault or also share fault,” said the congressman.

Here's to hoping HB 6925 becomes an actual law.

License plates, finally

It took a while but finally, new license plates have arrived, if you're one of the lucky ones at least. With a new plate supplier, the plate backlog, estimated to be around 11 million pieces, is slowly but surely slimming down. It took a long time but, if it's any consolation, it's better late than never.

Granted, there are still some 2016-purchased cars still waiting for their plates. Still, if you buy a car now, you no longer have to wait years before you can put on the registration number and ditch that conduction tag. It's still a long way to go but it's a good, promising start nonetheless.

End of an era

At the dawn of 2018, we waved goodbye to two stalwarts of the Philippine motoring industry. Last year marked the end of the road for the Mitsubishi Adventure, and Isuzu Crosswind. With Euro IV emissions in place, the Euro II-engined AUVs had to be dropped from their respective lineups.

For nearly 20 years (exactly 20 years for the Adventure), the two served as utilitarians, public transport, and family shuttles for the Filipino people. If you didn't own one, you always knew someone who did and if you commuted within the last 20 years, there's a sure chance you've sat in either of these.

While the traditional 10-seat AUV is no more, there's a new kind of vehicle taking the market by storm, and needless to say, it's doing wonders for Mitsubishi. As for Isuzu, we'll have to wait a couple more years to come up with a Crosswind substitute for the 2020s and beyond.

The dawn of small, seven-seat 'SUVs'

It all started with the BR-V but Toyota and Mitsubishi were quick to respond to the small, seven-seat 'SUV' from Honda. Mitsubishi showed their card first with the Xpander, serving as an indirect replacement for the 20 year old Adventure. Meanwhile, Toyota fought back with the Rush.

Within months of their respective debuts, orders soon piled in and reservation lines kept getting longer and longer. By the end of 2018, the Xpander and the Rush became common sights on our roads. Not to be outdone, Honda then announced that the BR-V is now being manufactured locally, making it the only small, high-riding seven-seater assembled in the Philippines. Needless to say, it will be an interesting fight among the Honda BR-V, Mitsubishi Xpander, and Toyota Rush this year.

Nissan joins the SUV slugfest

For the longest time, Nissan was missing out on one of the most important segments in the country today, the hotly contested mid-size SUV class. They finally rectified that when they pulled the covers off Terra and hit the ground running trying to convince people out of their Fortuners, Montero Sports, Mu-Xs, and Everests.

It was a long wait but it was definitely worth it with the Terra quickly becoming one of Nissan's fastest sellers. It's justified too as it is a genuinely good SUV on and off-road when we put it through its paces last month. With its competitive pricing and impressive capabilities, the Nissan Terra appears set to carry over its momentum into the new year.

Pickups for all

Big news for pickups this year as Ford, Isuzu, and Toyota made big headlines with their haulers.

On the utilitarian side of things, Isuzu gave the D-Max a new heart. Out goes the old 2.5-liter mill and in its place is a new 1.9-liter engine. While it is smaller than the engine it replaced, it packs more power and, in out testing, better fuel economy.

Toyota meanwhile gave the Hilux a new face with the Conquest, giving it a more aggressive look. Expect the rest of the range to have the new, bolder face sometime this year.

And then there's Ford ushering in a new kind of pickup. Performance pickup sounds like an oxymoron but Ford did exactly that with the Ranger Raptor. Packing over 200 horsepower, cross-country rally-inspired suspension, and a whole lot of attitude, there's no other pick-up in the country like it.

Little Jimny pulls a big crowd (and views)

There were a lot of new cars introduced back in the last 12 months but there was one little car that drew in a big crowd. It's the Suzuki Jimny and it became one of the most talked-about vehicles of 2018. With its retro-futuristic design, it charmed the audiences of last year's Philippine International Auto Show.

Granted, it isn't in showrooms just yet but it's starting to look like Suzuki has a winner on its hands. After all, who wouldn't fall for its bug-eyed face and 'cute-ute' dimensions? In a world of crossovers and pickup-based SUVs, this modern-day blast from the past was a refreshing sight.

Redesigning Toyota's best-seller

It's a delicate act redesigning a best-seller. So you can imagine the folks at Toyota piling in overtime preparing the new Vios. All those extra hours did pay off in the end when the first units rolled off the assembly line in Santa Rosa.

More stylish than before, the new Vios addressed most of the previous model's shortcomings in an edgier-looking, safer package. Granted, it's a rebody and a bit of a half step, but as we said a couple of months back, it's a half step in the right direction.

Made in China

2018 also saw a wave of cars made in China making their way to the Philippines. First up is Volkswagen and, we know what you're thinking; Volkswagen is German.

But from mid-2018 onwards, the majority of the product range will be sourced from China, ushering in a new era for Volkswagen in the Philippines. Consisting of the Santana, Santana GTS, Lavida, Lamando, and Tiguan long-wheelbase, these cars are looking for a bigger slice of the local market share.

Then there's GAC Motor which landed in the country towards the end of 2018. With a range of five vehicles, they aim to bring upmarket cars at a lower price. The GAC Motor range consists of the GA4 sedan, GA8 luxury sedan, GS4 compact crossover, GS8 mid-size SUV, and GM8 luxury minivan. BAIC and Foton joined the new car onslaught too with a couple of new cars to offer.

Over 50 new cars, over 50 new choices

You may not have noticed it but there was a lot of new cars that were introduced in the country. Ford showed us the all-new Expedition, updated Mustang, facelifted EcoSport and Ranger, and, of course, the Raptor. While we're on the subject of American cars, Chevrolet also brought in the Malibu... and the Corvette.

Hyundai meanwhile introduced the all-new Santa Fe and Veloster, Kona, Starex, Ioniq, facelifted Tucson and, as a year-ender, the all-new Accent. Honda on the other hand launched the updated HR-V and Isuzu rolled out the one of most affordable automatic mid-size SUV in the market today with the Mu-X LS.

Mazda updated two models and launched an all-new crossover with the facelifted Mazda6 and MX-5, along with the CX-9. Aside from the Terra, Nissan announced the arrival of more NISMO models for the Philippines. Subaru meanwhile gave their cars better vision with addition of EyeSight in most of their cars, plus the Levorg got a power upgrade. If we were to list down the new cars of 2018 in the Philippines, we'd have to make an entirely new story because there's just so many of them.

Luxury brands didn't take 2018 sitting down either, with Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and more launching a slew of all-new and updated models.

Looking back, it wasn't all bad in 2018. Yes, sales are down but the public is spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a new car. With that, there's a lot to look forward to in 2019 and, of course, there will be more new cars, pickups, and SUVs to come, and you can count on us to try them all out.

Happy New Year, everyone, and cheers to the road ahead.