Foton celebrates another banner year
Breaking into the Philippine automotive industry’s list of top 10 performers is a cause for celebration for any auto manufacturer.
Rommel Sytin, president and CEO of the United Asia Automotive Group, Inc., better known as Foton Philippines, must have been unaware that his company had already achieved that goal in 2017 when he spoke at the 2018 Foton dealers’ appreciation night last Friday.
The appreciation dinner, held in the swank ballroom of Solaire Resort and Casino, was graced by Foton China representatives led by Ma Rentao, EVP of the Foton Motor Group, dealer principals, partners from financial institutions, and media friends.
Reviewing Foton PH’s 2017 performance, Sytin claimed an 18.5 percent growth for the passenger and light duty truck segments, thereby contributing to the 18 percent growth of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (Campi) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA).
At one point, Sytin stopped reading his speech and extemporaneously urged the dealer principals to rise to the challenge of pushing Foton into Campi’s top 10 performers.
The fact of the matter is that according to the Campi/TMA’s year-to-date total vehicle sales report of 22 members as of December 2017, Foton placed 10th with 4,257 units sold, up from 4,081 units in the same period in 2016.
Foton surpassed rival Hino Motors Philippines, which registered sales of 4,030 units in 2017 and placed 11th in the Campi/TMA report.
On the other hand, if the 2017 YTD sales reports of Campi/TMA and the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (Avid) are consolidated, Foton would rank 12th behind Columbian Autocar Corporation’s (Kia) 5,186 units sold.
Nonetheless, breaking into Campi/TMA’s top 10 is an impressive feat, considering that in 2007, Foton PH sold less than 100 units as it had only one model pickup and one model light duty truck to offer.
Currently, Foton Philippines is active in four product segments: passenger vehicles like the Toplander SUV and Thunder pickup, light duty trucks, heavy duty trucks and heavy machinery.
There are numerous model variants in each segment, totaling to about 50 or more.
Foton is ranked as Asia’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer with 24 manufacturing plants in China and overseas, including one in the Philippines, plus R&D centers in China, Germany, Japan and Taiwan.
Looking forward to 2018, Sytin cautioned that with the higher excise tax on new automobiles imposed by the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law, the industry expects single digit growth.
But he still expressed optimism because the Philippine economy will continue to be strong with an expected 6.8 percent growth rate.
Sytin cited three government incentives that present opportunities for Foton in 2018.
First, the “Build, Build, Build” program will usher in more huge projects funded through grants from overseas development programs, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the One Belt One Road Fund, and many other sources, including the P637.86 billion budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways from the approved national budget for 2018.
Naturally, massive construction projects will require heavy duty trucks, heavy equipment and machinery—all of which Foton specializes in.
Second, the airport modernization program of the Department of Transportation will not only promote international tourism arrivals, but also decentralize and diversify economic development while stimulating the economic expansion of the National Capital Region and other provinces as well.
Third, the Euro 4 emission standard implementation in conjunction with the Jeepney Modernization Program provides a huge potential for Foton’s wide selection of products.
Foton has already produced a modern Euro 4-compliant jeepney prototype.
Euro 4 lineup
Regarding the Euro 4 emission standard, Sytin announced the scheduled introduction this year of Foton’s Blue Energy Euro 4 lineup consisting of five passenger vehicles and four light duty trucks.
The Gratour iM, Toplander automatic transmission (A/T), Thunder A/T, Transvan HR 16-seater, and Traveler XL 19-seater will be officially launched on Feb. 8 at the Mega Tent Libis events venue.
The Blue Energy Euro 4 launch will also include light duty trucks such as the 12-ft Aumark M4.2C and Tornado 2.4C, the 14-ft Tornado 4.4C, and the 17-ft Tornado 4.8C.
Sytin also announced that six more dealerships will open this year, bringing the total number of Foton dealerships nationwide to 29.
Foton dealerships now under construction in Bacoor, Cavite, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Bauang, La Union, Cebu South and Cainta, Rizal are expected to begin operations before the year ends.
Last year, Foton dealerships opened and began operating in Pili, Camarines Sur, Sta. Rosa, Laguna and Marilao, Bulacan, making Foton sales and services convenient for customers.
“We aim to bring Foton nearer to potential markets,” Sytin said. “We must bring Foton closer to where the market is.”
At the appreciation dinner, Sytin also urged the dealer principals to put up more Gratour sales outlets. At present, Foton has six Gratour sales outlets that make them easily available for micro, small and medium-scale enterprises.
Summing up, Sytin said: “Throughout the years, we have been successful in introducing new and improved product lines in terms of perfomance, durability and reliability, translating to better performance and sustainable growth.”
Foton Philippines, in fact, has become the country’s biggest Chinese automotive brand, and the only one to build an 11-hectare, P1.2-billion assembly plant in the Clark Freeport Zone which signals its bullish attitude toward the growth of the Philippine economy.
The Foton assembly plant has an estimated initial annual production capacity of 12,000 units for one assembly line. A second assembly line is being planned.
Does this mean that Foton PH will play a bigger role in the region in the future?
That question came to mind at the dealers’ appreciation night last Friday when Sytin said: “The presence of Mr. Ma Rentao, executive vice president of the Foton Motor Group, is a manifestation that they’re seriously considering the Philippines as a regional hub for their Southeast Asia operations.”
Maybe the 2019 Foton dealers’ appreciation night will provide the answer.