Vios Cup enjoys 400% viewership spike
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Toyota Motor Philippines put all speculations to rest when its president, Satoru Suzuki, announced in no uncertain terms the continuation of its motorsports program during the culmination night of the 5th season of the Vios Cup held Nov. 15.
Suzuki also hinted of more exciting things to come for the world-leading Japanese carmaker’s grassroots motorsports program.
“As we cap off another exciting season, Toyota will definitely continue its motorsports program. From next year, expect some changes in the program as we introduce another type of race on top of the existing circuit racing,” Suzuki said.
Before this announcement, the rumor mill was grinding, particularly when last September 22, during the final race of this season’s Vios Cup at the Clark International Speedway, Suzuki revealed in an Inquirer Motoring interview that “the image of the country’s best-selling car (had) leveled up in terms of being perceived as a fast, fun to drive car.
“But, it was not enough,” Suzuki added. “We need to seriously make a careful evaluation to make the Vios Cup more emotional, fun or exciting.”
The Vios Cup, which began in 2013, transformed what would otherwise have been seen as a “utilitarian” Vios subcompact sedan into a racing car for entertainment personalities and motorsports enthusiasts and aspirants, a figurative and literal vehicle to bring about waku-doki (intense fun).
“What started out as an initiative to showcase the Vios as a reliable car on and off the track has now developed to be the benchmark in the field of local racing. From a few aspiring race car drivers to professional racers, the Vios Cup has grown to become the biggest grid in Philippine motorsports, and evidently, has become one of the most awaited racing events in the country,” Suzuki said.
A large part of the Vios Cup’s success with its fan base couldn’t be based on gate attendance alone. In the virtual sphere, Toyota’s one-make race was an even bigger hit.
Online viewers of the Vios Cup races streamed over Facebook Live jumped from 330,000 in 2017 to 1.3 million in 2018.
Onsite attendance also grew, from an average of 8,000 persons per race leg in 2017 to 12,000 in 2018.
And as far as influence goes, the Vios Cup did its job, with 80 percent of the randomly selected 300 Vios Cup attendees saying they were encouraged to purchase a car after witnessing the races.
These healthy numbers were evidently TMP’s tipping points to push ahead with Vios Cup Season 6 in 2019.
Cristina Arevalo, TMP’s first vice president for Brand and Product Planning Cluster, explained that “after reviewing the data and revisiting our objectives, we saw the pattern. We’re not yet there (as far as achieving the objectives), but we’re going there. We think that developing interest in motorsports in the Philippines will take time.”
And it is this time that TMP has decided it can still afford to invest.
Arevalo revealed that Toyota’s regional office furnished her department with a list of survey questions that pertained to the market’s interest in motorsports, and if it influenced the market’s purchasing decisions.
“The outcome for these questions is good. Majority (of those surveyed) said yes, motorsports has influenced them in purchasing a car. This year, we decided to do a survey among those who watched the Vios Cup, and we were just wondering if there was an impact with the viewers. One question was: ’If you purchased a car, what brand would you buy?’ The majority answered Toyota.”
For Vios Cup 2019, expect the newest Vios, launched last July, to be featured in the races.
The new Vios’ overall length and width has increased by 15 mm and 30 mm, respectively.
The seat shape has also been improved to provide more space and comfort to the driver and passengers.
The Vios, TMP’s best-selling passenger car and flagship sedan in the country, is assembled in the Philippines.
The Vios has 40 percent local content. Over 50 percent of the body shell, in particular, is local. This includes the side member and large press parts.
TMP also ensures that all parts and components used in its vehicles are free of any substance of concern.
“It supports the manufacturing industry, generates employment, and symbolic not just for us at TMP but for the country, too. It provides livelihood not just to TMP employees but to the suppliers and associate industries. It’s the favorite sedan for taxi and TNVs operators, so it’s an indication that it’s an appreciated practical, functional car. When we put it in a race, we prove that the Vios is not just a practical, functional car that provides livelihood, it can give you fun and excitement as well,” Arevalo said.
TMP SVP Jose Maria Atienza agreed that motorsports has certainly transformed Vios’ image. “Not only were we able to prove that Vios is the best selling family, corporate, or teenagers’ car, it could also be a race car. It’s a complete story,” he said.
TMP’s commitment to the government’s Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy Program (CARS) has been to produce at least 200,000 units in a span of six years for purely the local market. TMP has been aiming for an average of 3,500 unit sales per month in order to sustain this commitment.
The Vios is the essential ingredient to TMP’s successful participation in the program. Thus, the subcompact sedan had continuously been improved to be on top of an ultra-competitive segment.
Arevalo said that aside from the change in the engine software, the aerodynamic design was also changed, resulting in better fuel efficiency of the vehicle.
The modified shape of the rear bumper, as well as the added aero-stabilizing fins, enhance the car’s stability and allows for a better airflow for the vehicle.
Unmatched by competitors in the same class, the Vios’ seven SRS airbags and vehicle stability control across all variants would make any passenger, whether seated in front or at the rear, to have a better sense of security.
The new Vios carries a 5-star Asean New Car Assessment Program or NCAP rating with its advanced safety features.
Introduced in the Philippines in 2003, the first-generation Vios was previously manufactured in Thailand and reached Philippines shores as completely built units (CBUs).
The second-generation Vios was produced in TMP’s manufacturing plant in Santa Rosa, Laguna from 2007 onwards.
“From first-time car buyers to seasoned motoring enthusiasts, the Vios is the model of choice for customers from all walks of life. Proving its versatility on and off the race track through the Vios Cup, it aligns with the taste and needs of the Filipino customers as its usage is just as wide as its clientele,” Suzuki said during the launch of the newest Vios last July 20.
“This has been proven by Toyota global sales results in 2017, wherein the Philippines ranked second highest in Vios sales with 36,733 units. Since its first introduction, we have sold a total of around 270,000 units,” he added.