Remember the words of Rodney King.
While the context of his words are far separated from the Philippine auto industry as, after all, they were having the widespread L.A. riots, perhaps it’s worth saying now: can’t we all just get along?
A bit of background first. For the past few years, the Philippine auto industry has been split into two major groups, when there originally was just one.
On one side, you have CAMPI or the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Incorporated. CAMPI is composed of industry players like Toyota Motor Philippines, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines, Honda Cars Philippines, Isuzu Philippines Corporation, Asian Carmakers Corporation for BMW, Columbian Autocar Corporation for Kia, Suzuki Philippines as well as Ford Philippines (not a member, but their sales numbers are accounted for under CAMPI), as well as CATS Motors for Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge.
On the other side, we have AVID, or the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors. The group is composed of Hyundai Asia Resources Incorporated, British United Automobiles for MINI, Scandinavian Motors Volvo, Motor Image for Subaru, PGA Cars for Porsche and Audi, as well as CATS Motors… again.
That’s not the whole story. Originally, CAMPI was the only industry group; the sole group that sent sales reports to us, the media, to present to you. But sometime in 2010, several members broke away and formed AVID, an industry group specifically composed of importers of completely built up units; unusual again because CAMPI has both local assemblers/manufacturers as well as importers/distributors. Boardroom politics, if you ask me.
While the effects of this great divide between two major groups in one country’s auto industry probably aren’t that visible nor would it matter to the average car shopper, as really, the only time we in the media feel the rift is in the reporting of monthly sales figures (it’s become quite tricky). You can, however, see it with our motorshows.
In 2006, Worldbex kicked off the Manila International Auto Show. To an average showgoer like myself back then (I was still new to the job), I thought MIAS was a true success; the first international caliber motor show in the country supported by all (as far as I can remember) the players and brands in the industry.
Like today’s two industry groups though, internal and boardroom politics came into play in 2006, and the first true international motor show in the country created a rift between the event organizers and the car companies. The result? In 2007 we had a Manila International Auto Show supported by some brands, while CAMPI held the first Philippine International Motor Show. Ever since, we’ve had two separate motorshows, with the MIAS being held every year from 2006 to 2012, while the PIMS was held in 2007 and then transitioned to a biennial event from 2008 to 2012. As I write this, there are rumors (or are they plans?) of another, separate motorshow to be sponsored by AVID.
Is this really our nature? We don’t like how it’s done so we just head on out the door and start a new group, association or club? It also holds true for the original group for allowing splinter factions to just cut and run without sorting out the issues? Something tells me boardroom politics isn’t all that different from the politics of the playground during recess; kids don’t like how the ‘cool group’ does it, they’ll join or start another group and call themselves ‘the cooler ones’. Sound familiar?
You may have been reading the past few paragraphs and thinking to yourself ‘well this is sentimental’, and you would be right; I am being a bit sentimental. But it wouldn’t really matter if we had a huge industry to begin with, but as a country, the Philippines sells around 160,000 cars a year. While that may sound like a lot, let’s look at other countries and other auto industries. We don’t have to look far to places like the U.S. or Europe, we just have to look at Thailand.
Fact: what we sell in a year Thailand sells in just over a month’s time, as projected 2012 Thai auto sales numbers are set to exceed 1.4 million units once the official numbers are in. That doesn’t even count the exports from their huge auto manufacturing base, as Thailand is targeting 2.5 million vehicles manufactured annually. Even their motorshow, the Bangkok International Motor Show held at the IMPACT Exhibition Center simply dwarfs our own World Trade Center in Pasay; easily, BIMS is twice or thrice as large than MIAS and PIMS. Even Indonesia, by sales volume alone, is already set to hit 1 million units, up from 900,000 in 2011.
Thailand is what the Philippines should have been in terms of development. The country has evolved into the automotive manufacturing hub of the region bringing tens of thousands of jobs, exports, and even more when you count the parts manufacturers there. There they have huge 8 lane elevated expressways, a fully integrated and interconnected city-wide transit system, and an airport that makes NAIA look like it’s a simple airfield. There, farmers can afford a tax-shielded single cab pick-up to bring their produce to market. Here, we have the dangerous kuliglig (motorized ox-cart). How did we get left behind so badly?
Make no mistake, the Philippine auto industry has experienced a ‘box full of neutrals several times in the past 30 years, hindering progress and preventing the growth we’ve always wanted. Some brands pulled out at the end of Martial Law (the coup d’etats didn’t help) while a decade later the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis threw a wrench into the works. But that’s all history now. Can’t we move on from that already?
A united Philippine auto industry which values free, fair and active competition amongst each other will have a greater voice to lobby for tax exemptions to lower prices (i.e. hybrid laws, CBU units, etc.), expand free trade agreements, lobby for non-oil dependent sources of electrical power to reduce electricity costs (the lifeblood of mass production) among other things. And, of course, have a motor show that is truly supported by the entire auto industry, not just by fractured alliances and industry factions… a true international-caliber auto show that the Philippine automotive industry as a whole can be proud of.
Can’t we all just get along? Couldn’t all the players in the industry from the Japanese companies that set up manufacturing here, the distributors of European, American and Korean cars and even the Chinese brands get together and -to use Toyota’s mantra- move forward?
Isn’t that what we all want?