Saturday, April 19, 2014

Car Features - We Rate the Vehicle Introductions During Joseph Estrada's Term

Joseph Estrada experienced falling car sales during his period as the President of the Philippines since he inherited the effects of the financial crisis. Nearly thirteen years he was impeached and became the Mayor of Manila, he saw the economy progressed which caused heavy traffic to his city. Today, he will celebrate his 77th year of existence.

Despite the financial crisis and sagging vehicle sales, there are some vehicle launches which we will revisit and rate them for their significance.

We would rate the vehicle launches between June 30, 1998 to January 20, 2001 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 January 20, 2001 are excluded), short introduction, and significance rating (out of five) with some commentary.

Vehicle: Audi TT
Introduction date: 1999
One of the great wonders to be released, the TT gives you unadulterated driving experience even though it has a "conservative" engine. And the dashing looks comes standard, which will be a future classic than the VW New Beetle.
Significance rating (out of five): 4/5. Future classic for the future generation.

Vehicle: BMW 3 Series E46
Introduction date: Late 1998 for sedan. 2001 for coupe, convertible, and wagon.
One of the favorite of the upper class and upper income folks. This sold well despite the economic meltdown and spawned the 3 Series line-up by including a coupe, convertible, and wagon versions. It retained its driving prowess which the vehicle is known for.
Significance rating: 5/5. Nobody beats the 3 Series, nobody.

Vehicle: Chevrolet Cassia
Introduction date: September 2000
The American invasion had trickled to the lowest portion of the automotive chain: the compact sedan. If the Ford Lynx was successful, the Cassia struggled to find any buyers perhaps to those who are fans of Chevrolets. Other than a complete vehicle amenities, there is no other advantage. The Optra that succeed at least made a dent.
Significance rating: 1/5. It tried but definitely failed.

Vehicle: Chevrolet Silverado
Introduction date: 2000
If the F150 succeeded, the Silverado was the opposite. It may have a potent V8 engine but it miserably failed on dealer support since only a handful of dealers are there to assist you.
Significance rating: 1/5. Chevrolets weren't successful during its first years.

Vehicle: Chevrolet Zafira
Introduction date: September 2000
A space master which can fit 7 people in a tiny shell. Made from Europe with a European price tag, at P1.3M during that time. Dropped from the line-up in 2002 and returned a year later with a lower price tag thanks to a revision on vehicle taxes.
Significance rating: 2/5. Too small a vehicle for the price.

Vehicle: Chrysler Voyager
Introduction date: 2000
Supplementing the overpriced and unloved Dodge Caravan is the smaller Voyager. There is not much to say especially it didn't sell well.
Significance rating: 1/5. No one bothered.

Vehicle: Daewoo Matiz
Introduction date: 2000
Only made available to the Visayas (most especially Cebu, Iloilo, and Bacolod) and Mindanao markets, the Daewoo Matiz was the last "Daewoo badged" vehicle until the Aveo and Optra were blessed as Chevrolets. This tiny hatch competed with the aging Kia Pride and oddball Hyundai Atoz but with a limited market, the limited is very very small.
Significance rating: 1/5. The people's car which never took off.

Vehicle: Dodge Durango
Introduction date: 2000
Transfarm released this Daimler Chrysler SUV alongside the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Unlike the releases of Ford, the Durango could never be called a success especially that price killed it before anything else. CATS Motors released the second generation model five years later with proper aftersales support.
Significance rating: 1/5. Toppling Ford was very hard for Transfarm.

Vehicles: Ford E150, Expedition, and F150
Introduction date: August 1998
After their pull out in the mid 80s, Ford Group Philippines' return was abuzz when Fidel Ramos gave them tons of incentives to mull their manufacturing plant in Santa Rosa, Laguna. To cement their presence, they sold first luxury vehicles such as the F150, Expedition, and E150 which sold well to the upper class market but gave Ford their gas guzzling image which resulted to low residuals.
Significance rating: 4/5. They returned with much fan fare at the expense of their image.

Vehicle: Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Introduction date: November 2000
Launched a year after the Ranger, the Sport Trac was promoted for active lifestyles than off-roading, which the Ranger was known for. While it managed to stay for four years, the gasoline engine limited its appeal especially this is sold in the US.
Significance rating: 3/5. Time had passed for this pick-up truck.

Vehicle: Ford Lynx
Introduction date: September 1999
Ford made hay with the Laser in the 80s. But with most units accumulating rust, Ford Group Philippines wanted to purge this memory off with the Lynx. Aimed at industry mainstays Corolla, Civic, and Sentra, it found buyers but failed to topple the leaders. It may offer a sunroof, leather seats, and an RS version throughout selling life but it bowed out in 2005 for the European based Focus.
Significance rating: 3/5. Its efforts wasn't enough.

Vehicle: Ford Ranger
Introduction date: September 1999
The success of the L200 and Frontier was the envy of Ford Philippines which prompted to introduce the Ranger. Unlike the hulking F150, you can live with its size and fuel consumption. This truck was the first American vehicle to be available with a diesel engine, which was a requirement in a diesel loving nation.
Significance rating: 3/5. American and diesels can work in harmony.

Vehicle: Honda HR-V
Introduction date: March 2000
Unlike the CR-V, the HR-V is a novelty vehicle especially it has a higher price and smaller dimensions inside and out. Nobody bothered with this vehicle unless one is a diehard Honda fan especially it was offered in an irregular basis.
Significance rating: 2/5. Why bother with this SUV anyway?

Vehicle: Jeep Grand Cherokee
Introduction date: 2000
Before Erap was removed in position, Transfarm introduced the second generation Grand Cherokee to compete with the successful Expedition. There's a V8 engine but it is not enough to topple the favorite of the papas of the Sexbomb Dancers.
Significance rating: 1/5. A packaged product marred with a stratospheric price and limited dealer support.

Vehicle: Kia Carnival
Introduction date: June 2000
Just like the Starex, the Carnival started out as a grey importer darling. With Columbian Autocar Corporation facing falling sales no thanks to some internal issues within the company, this minivan was brought in to re-brand the Kia nameplate. Somehow, it became a market success but with the arrival of modern competitors it fell behind.
Significance rating: 4/5. Koreans (and the Nippon) are the masters of space.

Vehicle: Kia Rio
Introduction date: Late 2000
Kia called this vehicle as an usher to its "New Millennium" technology. However, it was still remembered of its forefathers quality issues. While it first arrived, better competitors in the names of City and Vios came to the scene with better specification sheet. Other than a hatchback body, there is no other reason to buy this one.
Significance rating: 2/5. First does not mean a blockbuster.

Vehicle: Kia Sephia
Introduction date: June 2000
An addition to the Kia line-up, the Sephia could be called as a liftback similar to what the Mazda Astina and Proton Wira had done back then. While the market couldn't remove their Kia memories with the Pride, the Sephia is no market success.
Significance rating: 1/5. Wrong timing for such ambitious product.

Vehicle: Lincoln Town Car
Introduction date: 1999
FGP's first passenger car offering was this expensive Lincoln. A popular choice among bridal car operators and American diplomats, this can be purchased at a staggering P2.6M which does not include the fuel bills for the truck based V8 engine. Novelty got worn off for this vehicle.
Significance rating: 2/5. The select few got hands.

Vehicle: Mercedes Benz A Class
Introduction date: 2000
The smallest Benz that one can buy back then, and the cheapest too. The bad news is it flopped especially nobody bothered with a Benz without a trunk plus its failure in the moose test didn't do things either. The A Class badge resurfaced thirteen years later in a mature market.
Significance rating: 1/5. Wrong timing for such a classy but practical car.

Vehicle: Mercedes Benz C Class
Introduction date: June 2000
Although available through indent order (still), this generation paved way to various engine options including a turbocharged one. It had curves than the previous model plus it was more noticeable than before. Good job, finally.
Significance rating: 3/5. It is still a class of its own.

Vehicle: Mercedes Benz M Class
Introduction date: 2000
A "true" Benz SUV (the Musso was basically a rebadged Ssangyong) that was first in the luxury SUV race to compete with the Land Rovers. This one, while it looked great, had a share of reliability problems that is something not to be proud of. The BMW X5, launched during Erap's predecessor, was a much better product.
Significance rating: 1/5. The M meant misstep in the model.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi L200
Introduction date: 1999 
From boxy lines, the L200 gained some curves without giving up its muscular image and payload capacity. It also gained more standard amenities but with the vehicle introduced during Estrada's term, some people call it the "Estrada" since the Strada nameplate has some resemblance to the then leader.
Significance rating: 5/5. Mitsubishi introduced the vehicle at the right time.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V
Introduction date: 1998
Only available in limited quantities (this time in single digits), the Evo V is one rare specie. Other than that info, let the performance speak for itself.
Significance rating: 3/5. The enthusiast crowd cried when this one got the axe.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi Pajero
Introduction date: 1999
The Field Master nameplate brought a host of improvements including a new engine. While it became popular to the general public, it got dragged to controversy such as the infamous "Pajero Lady" and former DECS and La Salle Brother Andrew Gonzalez's purchase of expensive vehicles (which includes this one). Its a cliche, that you would be noticed with a Pajero.
Significance rating: 5/5. A revision attracted both the good and bad luck.

Vehicle: Nissan AD Max
Introduction date: June 1999
With the AD Resort going to car heaven, the AD Max shouldered on the duties it left behind. Businesses that do not need the bulk and danger of the L300 purchased this one in droves. After this, no manufacturer introduced a vehicle of the same concept.
Significance rating: 2/5. Fleets took a liking on this one.

Vehicle: Nissan Cefiro
Introduction date: May 2000
This generation of Cefiro retained the qualities of the previous model while adding new features such as a sunroof, Brougham model, and a 3.0 V6. While it was good, superior and modern competitors clawed its market share to zero and increasing its dependence to rent-a-car companies. The Teana, its successor, was a poor market performer.
Significance rating: 4/5. It was good until it got old.

Vehicle: Nissan Frontier
Introduction date: Late 1998
Replacing the aging Eagle/Pathfinder series, the Frontier offered numerous firsts in its category such as an automatic transmission and airbags. This truck became a sales success after Estrada got booted out from his position but as the vehicle aged, it lost its edge. This body continues on as the Frontier Bravado which targets small businesses.
Significance rating: 4/5. Little wonders that this truck means business.

Vehicle: Nissan Patrol
Introduction date: November 2000
President Erap had its predecessor as his presidential convoy vehicles; Universal Motors Corporation brought in a new generation model which saw more exposure during GMA's term. The latter part of 2000 were the days that Estrada is being investigated and resulted to his January 2001 impeachment which the distributor didn't care. Those who had the money definitely lined up for this baby and until today, one can buy this brand new alongside the fuel thirsty Patrol Royale.
Significance rating: 5/5. The top head of the country uses this one.

Vehicle: Nissan Sentra Exalta
Introduction date: March 2000
With Yulon Motor taking over NMPI's operations, this was one of their core products to much success. Replacing the bland Super Saloon variant, Exalta models get luxury appointments such as leather seats, CD changer, and sunroof at entry level prices. Sure, it may have a tacky interior and it carries a floaty ride but hey, you get these items in a stock car for less.
Significance rating: 5/5. Placing items reserved for the top to their lower brethren is a success.

Vehicle: Nissan Verita
Introduction date: July 2000
Coinciding with the Toyota Echo, the Verita seemed to follow the theme set by the Exalta and Cefiro which were released months ahead. Placing tons of wood to a vehicle that is intended towards the younger crowd isn't well received. Added to the fact hatches aren't the norm during the time.
Significance rating: 3/5. Novelty got worn off, fast.

Vehicle: Opel Astra
Introduction date: 1999
Now going downmarket, Opel introduced the Astra to battle the common Corollas and Civics plying the streets. The wagon model saw nearly market monopoly (against the unloved Suzuki Esteem) while the sedan provided an expensive alternative to the Japanese.
Significance rating: 3/5. It was nice, until change of plans occurred.

Vehicle: Porsche 911 and Boxster
Introduction date: 1998
Crisis was not a hindrance for PGA Cars to release the second generation 911 and its less expensive Boxster. Not all of us mere mortals can afford this (what more with the crisis) but seeing one pass by brings a smile to our faces.
Significance rating: 4/5. The cure for any depression which involves our finances.

Vehicle: Renault Clio
Introduction date: 2000
Another brand which was not noticed from the start that brought in a stylish hatchback. Almost 14 years later, we had not yet seen this one that popped out the classifieds.
Significance rating: 1/5. Let us move on guys.

Vehicle: Rover 75
Introduction date: 2000
PGA Cars offered this vehicle alongside the various BMWs and Range Rovers. Only the true blooded enthusiast would have knowledge of this vehicle. Not even the wealthy purchased this vehicle.
Significance rating: 1/5. People knew the SUV Rover, not the sedan Rover.

Vehicle: Suzuki Grand Vitara
Introduction date: July 2000
More modern while retaining its off-road roots, the Grand Vitara was released at the same time with the RAV4's but not to much market success. It was the first to release a V6 engine and an extended model known as the XL-7 was also launched.
Significance rating: 3/5. It has its fans and a cult following.

Vehicle: Toyota Echo
Introduction date: June 2000
After tiring people with Corollas, its time for Toyota to give them a breath of fresh air. Imported from Japan which caused to have a price higher than a top end Corolla. Since hatchbacks back then (pun not intended) aren't popular, it failed.
Significance rating: 2/5. Manufacturers learned their lessons from this failure.

Vehicle: Toyota Echo Verso
Introduction date: June 2000
A more larger sibling of the Echo is the Echo Verso. It had more space for both people and cargo and a larger engine. Same with its smaller sibling, it was imported from the Land of the Rising Sun which resulted to a stratospheric price and the end isn't as good.
Significance rating: 2/5. Another case of hatchback unappreciation.

Vehicle: Toyota RAV4
Introduction date: June 2000
The first to launch a second generation model ahead of the CR-V, the second generation RAV4 bade goodbye to funny looks and a three door model which were replaced by more sporty looks. People lined up for one despite the price but this can be attributed to a limited choices of SUVs.
Significance rating: 4/5. One of the success of the millennium.

Vehicle: Toyota Revo
Introduction date: September 1998
While the Tamaraw had better days, the fourth generation Kijang kept pace with the Mitsubishi Adventure and Isuzu Hilander. An overnight success, especially that it catapulted the first spot in the sales race for six straight years until its replacement continued on.
Significance rating: 5/5. Definitely an evolution of the Tamaraw lineage.

Vehicles: Volkswagen Bora, Golf, Lupo, New Beetle, and Passat
Introduction date: May 2000
A revamped Volkswagen line-up appeared in May 2000 that ditched the Spanish Polo Classic and replaced with a genuine German line-up. The new models arrived in different sizes that competed with the Japanese stalwarts but comes with a very very hefty price tag. No wonder (except for the New Beetle) their popularity had become unknown.
Significance rating: 2/5. They aren't hits since the price isn't right.

Vehicle: Volvo S80
Introduction date: May 2000
The older sibling of the S60 and S40 that placed the S90 in the automotive graveyard is the S80. While it didn't stood a chance against the 5 Series and E Class overall, it had a fanbase among those who wanted a low profile image and a safe ride.
Significance rating: 3/5. Emphasis on safety is one thing about this car.

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