Saturday, January 25, 2014

Car Features - We Rate the Vehicle Introductions During Corazon Aquino's Term

It was during her time that car manufacturers are returning to the Philippines after the country had disposed a dictator. And if she was still alive, Tita Cory would have been 80 years old today.

So let us revisit the vehicle launches during her term, which was filled with coup d'etat's around the corner and brownouts everywhere.

We would rate the vehicle launches between February 26, 1986 to June 30, 1992 by their success and significance in their market. Some vehicles paved way to future trends in the market while some were regarded as future classics and collectibles.

Shown below are the vehicles, date of introduction (those after June 1992 are excluded), short introduction, and significance rating (out of five) with some commentary.

Vehicle: Daihatsu Charade
Introduction date: 1990
Asian Carmakers Corporation, the sister company of Columbian Autocar Corporation, brought in the Daihatsu marque in 1990 and one of them is the Charade. This is the Japanese brand's entry to the People's Car Program, which Honda, Kia, and Fiat participated. It had market recognition but the Kia Pride, assembled by the subsidiary, was a hit despite the shoddy reliability.
Significance rating (out of five): 3/5. Along with the Pride, this paved way for the future economy cars like the Picanto and the Alto almost 15 years later.

Vehicle: Daihatsu Feroza
Introduction date: 1990
One of the small SUV's to be launched during her term. Unlike the Pajero and the Patrol, the Feroza is small and can be transformed to a convertible, thanks to a detachable top. It may pack a smallish 1.6 carburetor engine, but it was an ace when conquering the bad roads.
Significance rating: 4/5. Because of this (and the Suzuki Samurai), more compact SUV's arrived to the market. However, they became more female appealing rides than Marlboro man partner.

Vehicle: Daihatsu Hijet
Introduction date: 1990
All the vans that PLDT (the yellow ones before) and Destiny Cable used to connect your telephone and cable. The Hijet packed a tiny footprint but the interior revealed a very cavernous cabin. There was a reason why it sold well but the novelty waned later on (and we are not including the pull out of the brand).
Significance rating: 2/5. Only two (the Suzuki Super Carry is another) of these species arrived to the country brand new. While the Suzuki had success 10 years later, Daihatsu never conquered again.

Vehicle: Fiat Uno
Introduction date: 1991
After Honda Cars Philippines and Columbian Autocar (including their ACC subsidiary) wanting a piece of the PCP pie; Italcar Pilipinas, a subsidiary of Francisco Motors Corporation (the one who makes jeeps), entered with the Fiat Uno. The claim to fame? It had a diesel engine while others had carburetor engines. The very main claim? The only Fiat vehicle to enter the 20th century.
Significance rating: 1/5. The Japanese and the Koreans are better when it comes to peddling economy cars. The Italian badge never saw any charm among Filipino consumers.

Vehicle: Francisco Motors Anfra
Introduction date: April 1989
Fleets of various companies (PLDT, for one), have tons of them in their garages. Can be fitted with either gasoline or diesel engines from Mazda (they assemble pick-ups and vans from the said manufacturer) which ensured buyer's flexibility. With Pope John Paul II's visit for the World Youth Day, a Popemobile is done based on the Anfra. The death of the vehicle can be caused by the influx of more modern AUV's done by the Japanese, as well as Mazda's contract changes.
Significance rating: 3/5. The first Filipino vehicle could be done better if things were good.

Vehicle: Honda Civic EF
Introduction date: May 1991
Honda entered the Philippine market with the EF Civic (fourth generation model). This entered the People's Car Category of the Car Development Program but was rather short lived, with the next generation model around the corner when it was launched.
Significance rating: 3/5. First step for Honda: good. Next step: read below.

Vehicle: Honda Civic EG hatchback
Introduction date: April 1992
Barely a year after the first generation model was made available, Honda Cars Philippines made the Civic EG available to the public. The hatchback was first made available, with the sedan a year later. Unlike box lines of competitors, the Civic possessed curvy ones which proved to be stylish. It was a market hit, even after nearly 20 years, prices still linger in the six digit range. The tuner market had a toy to play with and exploring each modification possibilities.
Significance rating: 5/5. Honda proved that economy cars need not be boring.

Vehicle: Kia Pride
Introduction date: 1991
Despite negative notions against vehicles from the land of Kimchi, the Kia Pride sold extremely well especially it had a very low price. You may buy it either in sedan or hatchback configuration, which was a formula for success. With minimal updates, it reached the teenager stage until the superior Picanto replaced it.
Significance rating: 5/5. The market today had tons of choices when it comes to economy cars.

Vehicle: Kia Ceres
Introduction date: 1990
Move over L300 FB, the Ceres was the first chassis cab to be made available locally. It had a 4x4 option, which rivals didn't have (and even until today, with the K series having it). It is sold as the K2700 currently, which is longer in that body style.
Significance rating: 4/5. Was the leader especially it didn't have anyone to compete with. Until the L300 FB's launch three years later.

Vehicle: Mazda B Series
Introduction date: March 1988 for single cab. April 1989 for dual cab
Pick-up trucks were relegated to the farms and construction sites. One of the popular picks back then is the Mazda B Series which was assembled by Francisco Motors Corporation. Almost twenty years later (and nearly three presidents), tons of these trucks ply the streets even without parts support.
Significance rating: 3/5. Other trucks took the top spot later on.

Vehicle: Mazda Bongo
Introduction date: 1988
If the L300 flew dealership floors while the Urvan is just the new kid on the block, FMC attempted to crack the van market with the Bongo. Unfortunately, the name was just awkward at best. The next reincarnation had its name christened to E200 with the Power Van moniker in 1995.
Significance rating: 1/5. This van rarely comes out of buyers list back then.

Vehicle: Mercedes Benz 190E
Introduction date: Unknown
Only Mercedes Benz had a local representative; while with other European brands you have to deal with a grey importer. Nevertheless, a Benz is definitely a Benz. Rich people, especially those with thick wallets, lined up to get their bums in the back seat. Remember, nothing beats the appeal of a Chedeng.
Significance rating: 2/5. It wasn't during Cory's time German luxury cars were ready to compete.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi Galant
Introduction date: 1988
Apart from the Toyota Corona as well as Nissan's flopped mid-sizers, the Galant was the other option during that time. Executives loved this, boy racers liked the GTi version which was a sleeper. It was not a bland sedan, unlike the succeeding versions.
Significance rating: 5/5. It is a sought after vehicle in the used car market.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi L300 Versa Van
Introduction date: 1987
After the Hiace's demise, the L300 became the original Filipinos transporter. You can spot them carrying families going to an outing to gang syndicates ferrying their victims. Their dual sliding doors and their durable underpinnings were its selling points. However, modern rivals (despite the modern Exceed variant in 1997) and the decrease in marketing promotions placed this van out of pasture. 25 years later, this hit the graveyard and an another Aquino assumed office.
Significance rating: 5/5. Other vans must thank this for paving opportunities in the van market.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi Lancer
Introduction date: 1988
With the Box Type model being the only option during the Marcos era, it was time for replacement. The "singkit" Lancer brought in technological and comfort advancements which includes EFi engines and power windows. The good deal is a wide range of variants were offered: EL, GLX, GLXi, and a scorching GTi.
Significance rating: 3/5. Sold well, but brought nothing innovative to the market.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi Pajero
Introduction date: 1988
From politicians to businessmen, the image isn't complete without a Pajero beside them. It possessed excellent off-road capabilities and boxy yet handsome looks. If you want to show how successful are you back then, a Pajero is a must.
Significance rating: 5/5. The Montero Sport must thank its lolo for its success in the market.

Vehicle: Nissan Sentra B12
Introduction date: June 1987
Replacing the Stanza is the Series I Sentra which is a make or break success for Nissan. It sold well and saw the breath of fresh air among the sea of Lancers and Corollas but reliability woes left a poor impression among buyers. It was the first to release power windows in the competition.
Significance rating: 3/5. First impressions do last, fine effort.

Vehicle: Nissan Sentra B13
Introduction date: 1991
Pilipinas Nissan had enough of criticisms of the B11 Sentra. The B13/Series II Sentra became a staple in Philippine roads and it sold decently in the market. The success brought by this resulted to a fleet market exclusive LEC, which was offered until 1999.
Significance rating: 4/5. The start of the strengthening of the Sentra nameplate.

Vehicle: Nissan California
Introduction date:  September 1987
Since the Corolla is still AWOL and the Lancer is near retirement age, Nissan decided to expand the Sentra line-up by bringing in the California wagon. For those who didn't experience brownouts back then, this is essentially a Sentra wagon using a different name.
Significance rating: 2/5. Competitors of the same size never bother to bring in wagons, until the Hyundai Elantra wagon was launched nine years later.

Vehicle: Nissan Pulsar
Introduction date: February 1986
Complementing the stale Stanza is the funky looking Pulsar. This two door coupe had one novel feature: pop-out lights. This flopped and Nissan launched another two door coupe 11 years later.
Significance rating: 1/5. It flopped. And while the lights are nice, they're pain to the ass to fix.

Vehicle: Nissan Maxima
Introduction date: 1988
The first premium car from Nissan which battled the stalwarts from Mitsubishi and Toyota (during that time). Unlike the Galant which is focused on the sporty side, the Maxima is for the chauffeur set. It failed and replaced by the next vehicle shown below.
Significance rating: 1/5. No thanks to Nissan's patchy reputation, the Maxima isn't a hit.

Vehicle: Nissan Bluebird
Introduction date: October 1990
Next is the Bluebird which also failed since people gravitated towards the popular market choices. It looks stately and luxurious but the new nameplate isn't something that will make you jump for joy.
Significance rating: 1/5. Close, but not even a cigarette.

Vehicle: Nissan Cefiro A31
Introduction date: August 1989
The second one is the Cefiro which can be had with RWD and now regaining recognition among drifters. When it was brand new, no one recognized this sedan unless he/she is a car enthusiast. The succeeding Cefiros sold well and became executive favorites.
Significance rating: 2/5. A favorite of drifters, not the general public.

Vehicle: Nissan Bida
Introduction date: January 1989
Nissan entered the AUV segment which is dominated by back-yard assembled ones. It was a hit in the first years but the Tamaraw clawed market share later on.
Significance rating: 3/5. The Tamaraw FX and FMC must thank this one.

Vehicle: Nissan Sunny Pick-Up
Introduction date: July 1988
The predecessor of the AD Resort is the Sunny pick-up which is basically a Sentra with a bed. The small footprint ensured market domination among fleet buyers. Meralco, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi had tons of them in their fleet and restorers are in the hunt for these gems.
Significance rating: 3/5. Small trucks are not well received by the private consumers; companies jumped for joy for them.

Vehicle: Nissan Pathfinder/Power Pick-Up
Introduction: 1987
We shall deal with the Universal Motors Corporation assembled vehicles and let's start with the Pathfinder/Power series trucks. They sold well during their time and you'll remember this for their role in ABS CBN and GMA 7 as their trucks. They did the basics in trucks: haul and conquer muddy roads.
Significance rating: 3/5. The Frontier has a reason to take a bow infront of this.

Vehicle: Nissan Urvan
Introduction date: 1988
Next is the Urvan which kept a mid-pack position in sales during the 80s and 90s (guess who was the leader back then). With some re-tweaking done in 2002, as well the aggressive marketing towards entrepreneurship, the Urvan sold well but that's because market choices dwindled down.
Significance rating: 4/5. UMC took advantage of the L300's downfall and became a late bloomer.

Vehicle: Nissan Patrol
Introduction date: 1987
If the Pajero had politicians and businessmen as their market base, the Patrol had one: the president of the Philippines. This is a familiar sight during presidential convoys with their large sirens that protect the black Benz that Tita Cory was in. Her predecessors also used Patrols as back-up vehicles of latest vintages.
Significance rating: 5/5. No matter the presidents change, their preference for one doesn't fade.

Vehicle: Suzuki Samurai
Introduction date: 1989
Unlike the Feroza that carries a modern interior, the Samurai likes to play dirty. It has a removable top and simpler mechanicals that even a roadside mechanic can fix it. Small in size, big in ability on conquering poor roads.
Significance rating: 4/5. Together with the Daihatsu, it paved way for compacts as well as Suzuki's own Jimny.

Vehicle: Suzuki Super Carry
Introduction date: 1990
Selling to companies (like Comfoods, who makes biscuits and coffees) and government agencies like hotcakes is the Super Carry. Compact in size yet big inside is the van's charm. In fact, the Carry lived on and became an inspiration among the multi-cabs that ply the streets.
Significance rating: 5/5. You never knew that the multi-cabs are based from this.

Vehicle: Toyota Corolla AE90
Introduction date: 1988
The terms SKD (local production started in March 1989) and 16 Valve are the fault of the E90 Corolla. It may be basic but the engines rock your world and since this is a Toyota, it will last longer than you do. Almost after 25 years, tons of them are being driven.
Significance rating: 5/5. Corollas have a special place in the heart of a Filipino driver.

Vehicle: Toyota Corona
Introduction date: 1991
Playing second place to the Galant is the recently launched Corona. Unlike rivals that possessed EFi engines, the Corona had a carburetor and only available with just one variant. The only people that warmed to it were Toyota loyalists and those who wouldn't want a Nissan.
Significance rating: 2/5. Nothing special to be honest. But better rivals (and a better Corona) were released after.

Vehicle: Toyota Crown
Introduction date: 1988
If you're on the executive ladder, then a Toyota Crown is a must for you. It is a familiar view back then: a chauffeur driving his amo to work usually in a white Crown. If you think the Benz is too high profile, the Crown is a more mainstream pick.
Significance rating: 3/5. The Camry of today must thank the Crown.

Vehicle: Toyota Liteace
Introduction date: 1989
Small families and even college students drive them. Lite in size, ace in space. No one complained how underpowered the engine was, but what's important the vehicle never let them down. Reminisce road trips with the Liteace and one can have it for less than a hundred grand. Its popularity dwindled at the end of the 90s due to entry of low cost AUV's.
Significance rating: 5/5. Nothing beats a small van inside the city, the Avanza must thank its distant cousin for its popularity.

Vehicle: Toyota Tamaraw (photo shows FX wagon model)
Introduction date: 1991 for HSPUR. 1993 for FX wagon
One of the longest running nameplates in the country. Started as a basic MPV that is similar to a jeep and became a PBA team later on. Rivaling the Ford Fiera and later on the various Bida and Anfra AUV's and the precursor of the Adventure and Hilander; the Tamaraw can be had with either cargo version (first launched in 1991) or wagon version (available in 1993) which gave birth to the term "FX".
Significance rating: 5/5. Very influential, the comeback was met with success and rivals has a reason to thank the Tamaraw.

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