The iconic 3-diamond marque feels like a million sparkling memories

By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer April 08,2019

Blaylock (seated fourth from left) in the company of present and former officials of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. and business partners during a visit of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. chairman Osamu Masuko in 2017

After more than 55 years of constantly “battling” it out in the competitive local automotive industry, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (along with its nationwide dealer network of 54 outlets), has transformed from a “diamond in the rough,” to a sparkling gem that’s worth its weight in a million cars.

Yes, quite literally, MMPC has become worth the equivalent of the billions upon billions of parts and components that collectively make up the 1-million Mitsubishi-branded vehicles (including the Fuso trucks and buses, up until December 2018) it has turned over to Filipino motorists in its more than 55-year history.

And when you add up the countless experiences of those owners, drivers and passengers of every Mitsubishi vehicle that rolled on Philippine streets since MMPC started operations, then you get a brand that is priceless, unquantifiable, infinite, and definitely as Pinoy can be.

Everything starts out as diamonds in the rough. MMPC was no different from other start-up companies then. But the one thing it had going for it was the iconic Mitsubishi Motors logo proudly displayed at its facade. But it also meant that there were high expectations. And through the years, that symbol was constantly put to the test, in quite the same way the vehicles themselves were subjected to the harshest of road (and offroad) conditions. These vehicles passed with flying colors: Podium finishes in the Dakar Rally, wherein Mitsubishi won 12 times; in the WRC using the Lancer Evolution, peaking with the manufacturer’s champion trophy in 1998, plus being drivers’ champion for four times, and an astounding total of 26 race wins for the Evolution alone, and then 34 more wins using other models; in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Race, 2nd and 6th in 2012, 2nd and 3rd in 2013, and 1st and 2nd in 2014–all in the EV (electric vehicle) class; the Outlander PHEV in the thick of the Asian Cross Country Rally in 2013, 2014, 2015.

Montero Club

Just like how the brand fared in the international scene, the power of Mitsubishi in the Philippines put MMPC in podium finishes in annual sales reports.

Which is why the 1-million unit sales mark can be considered a mere “scratching the surface.” The real diamond lies in the collective memories of the 1-million owners of the beloved Japanese marque.

But the story doesn’t end here. The 1,000,001st Mitsubishi vehicle may well be on its way to its new owner. The diamond begins again in the rough.

Club Mitsu—a car club formed by Mitsubishi fans, was formed in early 2000, and was among those groups that had a big hand in making the brand a household name in the country. With the help of this car club’s online presence—and influence—in the early 2000s, the brand awareness that car clubs like Club Mitsu created in the Philippine market helped bridge a new generation of informed Mitsubishi car buyers.

Not surprisingly, the Club’s founder and first president Rufi Parpan owned a multitude of Mitsubishi vehicles: An ’89 Lancer GLX; ’96 Lancer GLX M/T;’ 91 Galant GTi; ’95 Galant VR; ’96 L300 Versa Van; ’96 Pajero TDIC; ’92 Galant GTi; ’92 Galant GTi, and; a ’97 Pajero 3.0 V6.

Mirage club

Still, Rufi pines for his dream car, “An original, mint US-version ’92 Galant VR4.” Parpan narrated that Club Mitsu started as a Yahoogroup “after we had identified ourselves individually on Kotse. com as Mitsubishi owners”. He added: “Our e-group was pretty active and while there were many suggestions for an EB (eyeball, or a meet-up), it took quite a while before it really happened. What it took was for me to declare a date, time and venue.” Parpan said that it was at the parking lot between EDSA Shangri-La and the Shangri-La Mall. He quipped: “Thankfully enough, a good number of guys showed up. I am not too sure anymore but it might have been at least 12 who showed up that first night. As I always had a camera in my car, I organized a shoot of each attendee with their car.”

Parpan said that he was in EBs almost every Friday night; mostly with Club Mitsu guys but sometimes with friends from other car clubs. He said he stayed active with the Club until around 2003, when “splinter groups” had formed within the Club.

Galant Club

On MMPC’s 1-millionth unit sales milestone, Parpan said: “Congratulations on keeping the brand strong in our market! Thank you for keeping your vehicles interesting! I say this because over the last decade, I observe cars to be looking more and more alike. I wish for the corporation to stay strong and continue to be a major player in our market. From an economic and global standpoint, I do understand it is not feasible to attempt to go back to manufacturing anymore. But I do appreciate the corporation for holding out as long as it could, for example, in the local build of the Pajero (MMPC locally assembled the Pajero from 1987 to 2008).” MMPC now locally produces the Mirage and the Mirage G4.

Parpan has his own personal milestones as a Mitsubishi owner and fan. “I owned three Galant GTis, and I probably will own one more, if I can find a really mint one.”

George Blaylock, who was included in Inquirer Motoring’s 33 most influential people in the auto industry in 2018, is the President and General Manager of one of Mitsubishi’s most prominent dealerships, Diamond Auto Group of Companies (DMC).

Blaylock is a true-blue Mitsubishi fan, and owns quite a few of its classics: Lancer, Galant, Montero Sport, RalliArt, and Evo. “What I regret was selling my 1976 Galant which Mike Potenciano ‘souped-up’ for me … that was a mistake,” he told the Inquirer Motoring.

Lancer Box type club

DMC may not be the first Mitsubishi dealer in the Philippines, but nevertheless, the dealership is also celebrating its 50th year this August as an exclusive Mitsubishi dealership. DMC opened its doors to the public August 1969 as a direct franchisee of Chrysler Philippines, but it started with the Fuso brand, which evolved into Mitsubishi.

“Through the years, DMC has always been proud of being a trailblazer for Mitsubishi dealers in the Philippines, coming up with new innovative and progressive ways of achieving customer satisfaction. Diamond was the first dealer to introduce satellite operations. We also were the first Manila-based Mitsubishi dealer to expand to the provinces.”

Blaylock revealed that it was “providence” that made his group decide to build its business around the Mitsubishi brand.

“During the late ’70s, Mitsubishi was leading the way when it came to coming out with different sedan models like the Mirage, Galant, and the very first Dodge Colt which gave the brand a strong recall in the local automotive industry. During the ’70s, we were the distributors/assemblers of Mazda under Apex Motor, but when the government came up with the PCMP, or The Progressive Car Manufacturing Program, Mazda was not included. We were then offered Mitsubishi,” he narrated.

“As a longtime dealer and business partner of MMPC, I extend my congratulations on its very important milestone, and I pray for its continued success. We hope that MMPC will continue to honor in the coming years, the partnership built on trust and mutual respect we have had as manufacturer and dealer, and that MMPC is able to continue to provide great vehicles to our loyal Mitsubishi customers, and there are so many of them.”

Blaylock added: “My wish for MMPC is for the company to come up with better ways to influence the local automotive industry and to lead the way in opening its eyes and ears to what the market really desires. I also desire that MMPC can successfully bring back a striving manufacturing facility and hopefully an export program as well.”

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