1960’s – Continued Growth in the West, the Rise of a New Superpower in the East

As the motoring industry grew, different development trends emerged from different regions all over the world. In the United States, the 1960’s saw the rise of a new breed of car buyers – young individuals with extra income who were looking for an affordable car that stood out among the sea of ordinary sedan. This ushered in the birth of the “pony car” – a unique and sporty-looking vehicle for the everyman. The first and arguably the most iconic model was the Ford Mustang, launched in 1964.

1965 Ford Mustang

It’s interesting to note that performance was not the most important factor when considering a pony car; rather, it was the youthful, macho image that made these cars desirable. To this day, manufacturers continue to offer desirable (yet relatively affordable) cars for those who wish to be more distinguished on the road.

First generation Toyota Corolla

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, a new automotive superpower was shaping up. Though Japanese auto manufacturers have existed several decades earlier, it was in the 1960s when the industry grew exponentially, and their car exports increased two hundred-fold. The Japanese excelled in making small family cars that were cheap, efficient, and well-built. The classic example of this mantra was the Toyota Corolla, launched in 1966. It came with a 1.1L engine that generated 60 horsepower, and was paired with a 3-speed manual or 2-speed automatic that transferred power to the rear wheels. ent, and well-built.

Initially, Japanese cars had difficulty establishing themselves in the American/European markets (similar to how Korean cars were viewed with apprehension in the 90s), but after a few years they were able to prove they made reliable cars with great value. Eventually, Japan would overtake the United States as the largest automobile manufacturer in the world, and the Corolla would become the best-selling automotive nameplate with over 40 million units sold.

Toyota Tamaraw

1970s – Continuing Innovation and the Emergence of the Philippine Market

By the 1970s, Japanese cars caught on across Asia, including the Philippines. Locally, there were 2 distinct types of vehicles that prevailed – sedans and people carriers. While sedans like the Corolla were also common elsewhere in the world, people carriers were unique to Southeast Asian markets. The pioneer of this segment was the Toyota Tamaraw, launched in 1976. Derived from a workhorse pickup truck, the rear bed was replaced with a roofed cabin initially meant for hauling cargo. Later on, the Tamaraw featured side-facing bench seats for ferrying people, and would become the predecessor for the widely popular MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) of today.

Mercedes-Benz W116 S-Class

While developing nations were content with basic vehicles, more advanced nations were still pushing the envelope when it came to automotive innovations. In 1971, Chrysler together with brake company Bendix launched the first Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) called the Sure-Brake, despite Mercedes-Benz’s claim that it was their Bosch-derived system in the 1978 S-Class that was the first ABS. Regardless of who claims the honor of being first, ABS allowed the driver to remain in control and prevent skidding during panic braking situations. This would become the most significant active safety feature for automobiles, and would lead to the development of more advanced braking systems in modern cars. 

Along with ABS, another significant invention was the airbag. It was first used on Ford vehicles in 1971, but early versions turned out to be more harmful than helpful. Later on, airbags were redesigned as supplemental restraint systems (SRS), meaning that they were to be used in conjunction with other safety systems like the seat belt. This proved to be effective, and SRS airbags have now become standard even on low-end cars.

The Iconic Lancer Box Type

1980s – Innovation Even Through Tough Times

The 1973 and 1979 fuel crises caused a paradigm shift in automotive philosophy. Suddenly, big, burly cars became impractical, while smaller, more efficient vehicles were the next big thing. As a result of this change in mindset, manufacturers shifted to front-wheel drive configurations for their cars. While rear-wheel drive cars generally offered better handling, the front-wheel drive layout was more compact and allowed manufacturers to make smaller, lighter cars without sacrificing cabin space. Today, the majority of mass-market cars are front-wheel drive, while rear-wheel drive has been left mostly for sports cars and larger utility vehicles.

In the Philippines, the 1980s marked the fall of the Marcos regime, and an economic downturn followed in its wake. Despite having a 45% market share, Delta Motors, the local assembler and distributor of Toyotas, was forced to close shop. At the time, only the Mitsubishi Lancer (commonly known as the box-type) and the less familiar Nissan Stanza remained in production. Thankfully, the economy improved towards the end of the decade, with the resurgence of the local auto industry led by the return of Toyota (under Toyota Motors Philippines Inc).

For the final installment of this series, we explore the continued growth and innovation for the motoring industry.