Skid Marks

Reflections on 2018 and the meaning of Christmas


Firstly, Happy New Year to everyone! Hope the holidays treated you well, you’re all rested and enjoying the company of family and friends, and ready for 2019.

As I write my first column for the new year, I look back on the year that was and think how things were.

Firstly, 2018 marked the year I turned 40. And they say life begins at 40.

On my birthday, in the company of close friends, they all asked me if I felt any different. I told them, “Yes. In fact, when I woke up, I suddenly felt this pressure to stop thinking and acting like a kid.”

Perhaps turning 40 was a wake-up call to start thinking more seriously. I guess I’ll find out in the coming months in 2019.

I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to message, call, and see me on my birthday. I was truly overwhelmed and humbled by everyone’s warm words.

The year 2018 was also a very difficult year. Professionally and personally, I had many challenges.

Work was brutal—lots of issues with the business, which mirrored that of the Philippine automotive industry.

As you may or may not know, industry sales dropped by roughly 20 percent compared to 2017, with some smaller players citing even a 40 percent drop in volume compared to the previous year.

Only Nissan and Suzuki, I understand, are the two brands that have improved on their sales figures compared to 2017.

Thankfully, the industry was able to roll with the punches, and continues to remain stable, capable and well-prepared to handle the market’s dismal performance.

In hindsight, the Philippine automotive industry has been on a long bull-run since 2010.

If we discount the 2011 sales figures (down, due to supply issues caused by the flooding in Thailand which caused a backlog of orders in factories located in Thailand that supplied vehicles all over Asean), the Philippines has enjoyed a long run, with massive jumps every year, from 2010 till 2017.

In 2017, pre-TRAIN jitters caused an artificially high volume, no doubt stemming from panic-buying to avoid paying new, higher prices based on revised taxes of the tax reform law, which was still unclear on how much new taxes would be until Jan. 1, 2018.

But 2018 was also very rewarding. I got to ride and drive so many amazing cars all over the world (which you read about in my column last week), and we had highly impressive motoring shows, starting with the Manila International Auto Show (MIAS) in summer, followed by the industry trade-show Philippine International Motorshow (PIMS), and finally, for those into car culture, car modifying and tuning, the Manila Auto Salon and Custom Truck Show organized by TSI, the biggest show of its kind in the country.

Attendance by both exhibitors and show-goers were, as always, impressive and record-breaking and larger than the previous year.

People still love cars, and they still remain an aspirational purchase for many.

Car culture continues to thrive, progress and evolve for the better, regardless of what “scene” or segment of car culture you are into.

Despite the difficulties, as a nation and as an industry, we showed that we have true grit and determination to weather the storm.

We have more professionals working in the automotive industry now more than ever. There are more checks and balances in the automotive industry, as well as the supporting industries around it (banking, finance, logistics, manufacturing).

None of the major industry players abandoned the Philippine market as they had many years ago, and all car brands are still planning on expanding for 2019 with more dealerships opening soon in remote but progressive communities and municipalities.

All this means more employment opportunities for our young and skilled labor force.

Interest rates remain between 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent per annum for car loans, so buying a car is still accessible, with truly affordable financing schemes available for everyone.

The major car brands have also aggressively been giving promotional prices and subsidies to help sustain whatever sales momentum the industry has, and although majority of car buyers aren’t buying just yet, the general feel is that the public still plans on purchasing a car in the next 12 to 18 months, thanks to affordable financing schemes, and a very large, well-spec’d, and wide variety of cars available to the average Filipino.

Surprisingly, the motorcycle total sales volume for 2018 was simply overwhelming, at almost 1.9 million motorcycles sold. This is certainly a feather in the cap of the local transportation economy as a whole.

See? Despite many challenges and difficulties, we have much to be thankful for. And for that, I feel, is the message the automotive industry and general public must remember.

Collectively, we as a whole aren’t dead, we are still here, and prospects remain bright for 2019.

There were no massive lay-offs, and people are still employed. Overcoming the difficulties of 2018 is a major achievement.

The industry learned its lesson from the Asian financial crisis of 1997 which really saw the industry go down far into the red.

CAMPI’s president, Atty. Rommel Gutierrez, who is also Toyota Motors Philippines’ vice president for Corporate Affairs, projects a 10 percent increase in sales or industry growth in 2019, based on the unofficial 2018 sales figures.

So definitely, we, as a collective whole in the Philippine automotive industry, are confident of our prospects this 2019.

Are you optimistic for 2019?

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