Isuzu rolls out modern jeep prototype


Isuzu Philippines Corp. (IPC) would be doing a pilot run of its modern jeeps early next year to assess the profitability of the venture, a top official said.

Joseph Bautista, IPC division head of sales, said the company has already decided to join the government’s eco-public utility vehicle (eco-PUV) program or the replacement of decrepit jeeps plying the country’s roads. He said it was “just a matter of looking at the business aspect” of the project.

The modernization program is a government initiative spearheaded by the Department of Transportation. It seeks to replace more than 200,000 oil-chugging PUVs across the country.

The Board of Investments (BOI), for its part, is preparing a manufacturing program that will answer the supply needs of the initiative by incentivizing companies to make the modern jeeps. The official guidelines for the program have yet to be released.

“We are actually already decided on joining. It’s just a matter of looking at the business aspect,” Bautista told reporters in an interview last week.

“We need to launch it first in some pilot areas. In any business, you need review points. It’s not possible to do it all immediately. You need to test it first in some areas,” he added, noting this would be in some parts of Metro Manila and other provinces.

He said the company was still mulling over how many units would be hitting the road as part of the pilot run.

President Duterte had warned jeepney drivers to modernize their vehicles starting Jan. 1 next year, or else, “leave.”

This was met with strong criticisms, especially from jeepney drivers who have launched several transport strikes in the past few months. The units don’t come cheap, adding to the burden of higher fuel prices.

Bautista said the deadline set by Mr. Duterte was also not realistic.

“We can’t do all of it in full blast as a manufacturer, as a consumer, and as a government. We need to have review points,” he said.

He said the company would need around six months for the pilot testing.

Isuzu, which according to official data is the fifth top selling automobile company in the country, would supply the chassis of the PUVs. Bautista said they were in discussions with body manufacturers Almazora Motors Corp. and Centro Manufacturing Corp. for the project. –Roy Stephen C. Canivel 

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