Top of the charts

Buyer preferences remain much the same, even while new models manage to top some sales categories

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The Philippine automotive industry continued its steady growth in 2016, with sales surging by more than 16 percent.

Familiar names dominated most of the vehicle categories, with a couple of newcomers and resurgent nameplates elbowing their way into the top five.

The top three marques this year are a familiar bunch. Toyota remained firmly in first place, with 158,728 unit sales, or 43 percent share of the market.

Mitsubishi lined up in second place with 61,400 units.

Hyundai edged past Ford, 33,695 units to 33,688.

Isuzu captured fourth with 27,361, while Honda lined up in fifth with 23,199 units.

Light commercial vehicles (LCVs), a category that includes SUVs, pickups and MPVs, continued to be the choice of more buyers.

In the top 10 nameplates, seven are LCVs. Toyota has a remarkable seven vehicles in the top 10, including the Fortuner, Hiace, Innova, Avanza, and Hilux.

The Isuzu mu-X and Ford Everest were the other LCVs in the top 10.

Filipinos maintained a preference for vehicles that are bigger and more versatile than conventional sedans. Six of the top 10 nameplates had seating for at least seven passengers.

Meanwhile, one subcompact and two minicars were the winners in the passenger car segment. The Toyota Vios topped the overall market with 36,256 units sold.

Its smaller sibling, the Wigo, was second highest in the passenger car market, with the Mitsubishi Mirage G4 coming in third.

Low initial cost, fuel efficiency and ease of maintenance are the probable factors in the domination of these three models.

The Uber phenomenon probably contributed significantly to the sales of the Vios and Mirage G4, with the Vios coming up first in your mental dictionary when you think of an Uber car.

The Hyundai Accent came in second in the subcompact race, followed by the the Honda City and Jazz.

In the subcompact category, it was a market of one, with the Ford EcoSport vacuuming up practically all the sales. A total of 10,010 EcoSports units found owners in 2016, compared with the next in line, the Chevrolet Trax, at a mere 550.

It’s interesting to see if the Japanese models, currently a couple of them from Honda, or any newcomers, will manage to break into the category this year.

In the minivan category, volume—as in passenger volume—is king, with the large “refrigerator” van Toyota Hiace and Nissan Urvan taking the top two slots.

Another large vehicle, the Hyundai Starex, continued to soldier on.

Meanwhile, the stylish new Kia Carnival came in fourth, while the spare-no-expense Toyota Alphard completed the top 5.

The compact SUV/crossover category is one rare instance where it’s not a Toyota on top.

Here, the relatively new Hyundai Tucson takes the top spot.

It’s heartening to know that Filipino motorists can appreciate daring design, with the Nissan Juke barging into second place, with the comfortable and well-equipped Honda HR-V coming in third.

Two categories that were not as popular as they were 15 years ago—the compact and executive sedans—nevertheless contained nameplates that sold in the thousands.

The Toyota Corolla Altis kept its stranglehold on compact sedan category, even as a refreshed version made its debut only in December.

The Nissan Almera, subcompact in footprint but with a large interior space, came in second, with the if-looks-could-kill Honda Civic climbing steadily, ending the year at the number three position.

Meanwhile, the Toyota Camry continued to dominate the executive car segment, with its archrival the Honda Accord coming in a distant third.

Seizing a surprise second place was Subaru’s mean-looking turbocharged wagon, the Levorg.

In the midsize SUV category, it was business as usual for the Toyota Fortuner, taking a commanding lead of 28,549 units sold in 2016 and long waiting lists with dealers until now.

Isuzu enjoyed a healthy second place with its new mu-X.

The Ford Everest is neck and neck with the mu-X.

The Toyota’s main rival, the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, is languishing in fourth place, despite being a vehicle that is the best in many aspects.

The mu-X’s platform-mate, the Chevrolet Trailblazer was fifth in the category, even as an upgraded version was launched last year.

The controversial “unintended acceleration” issue has now been debunked by a third-party analyst hired by Mitsubishi, but it still remains to be seen whether the once-mighty Montero Sport would recover its lost market share.

It’s interesting that the Fortuner handily outsold the Toyota Innova, once Toyota’s number one commercial vehicle in sales.

The Innova is barely ahead of midsize SUVs like the Isuzu mu-X and Ford Everest. The Innova’s higher price no doubt opened up the field, with buyers finding better perceived value in SUVs.

Changes are coming to the automotive landscape this year, with a planned new excise tax making higher-end vehicles even more expensive.

This may push buyers towards the cheaper, smaller vehicles, or the car manufacturers may come out with new variants.

The vehicle categories and preferences will likely stay much the same in 2017, but expect new nameplates to bring even more excitement into the mix.



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