Saturday, April 5, 2014

Car Features - We Rate the Vehicle Introductions During Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Term (Part 1)

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stepped into power after President Estrada was deposed (similar to Cory Aquino) and many changes in the automobile industry happened. We all saw the introduction of several new models and the revision of a taxation rule that removed tax incentives to vehicles which carried 10 or more people.

For her 67th birthday, let us go back to the vehicle launches during her term especially with her nine years in power, many things happened especially to the automotive industry.

This feature is divided to three parts. First would be her term from January 20, 2001 to June 30, 2004, next is from June 30, 2004 to June 30, 2007 and lastly is from June 30, 2007 to June 30, 2010. The latter two will be made available on future dates.

For the first part, we would rate the vehicle launches between June 20, 2001 to June 30, 2004 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 2004 are excluded), short introduction, and significance rating (out of five) with some commentary.

Vehicle: Bentley Arnage
Introduction date: 2002
An item that the rich and privileged can buy, the Bentley Arnage had high quality and presence. You would want to ride one and say to the world "I am rich!" The venture of Rodriguez (whom I don't know) and Enrile (Jack and Manong Johnny) failed in peddling this and the Rolls Royce Silver Seraph.
Significance rating (out of five): 1/5. With the economy back then, this didn't make sense.

Vehicle: BMW 5 Series
Introduction date: September 2003
After making an entrance during the term of Ramos, it was time to treat the 5 Series for a redesign. It was notable for one thing: it offered a standard diesel engine. Unlike the Benz E Class which introduced an oil burner and dropped it on the line-up later on, the diesel influence was trickled on to other passenger sedans in the line-up to much success. The E46 3 Series had one but not a success.
Significance rating: 4/5. Diesel is no longer an enthusiast's nightmare for driving pleasure.

Vehicle: BMW 6 Series
Introduction date: 2003
The distributor inclined to bring in a luxury coupe after the 8 Series was a grey market exclusive vehicle. With both coupe and convertible versions mated to a V8 engine, only the rich can afford this. For the mainstream market, nobody seemed to care.
Significance rating: 2/5. Loved by the wealthy, forgotten by many.

Vehicle: BMW 7 Series
Introduction date: March 2002
The first BMW to have the Bangle treatment which resulted to a mix emotion of styling. This one started the iDrive craze which confused owners. Besides, you'll have the image associated with a BMW and the back seat is definitely the place to be.
Significance rating: 3/5. Still you get that BMW feeling.

Vehicle: BMW M3
Introduction date: 2001
Think the 3 Series is too plain? Then the M3 provides more punch while giving your family space for your daily road trips. It definitely had its market among the sporty inclined family man without spending on an extra sedan.
Significance rating: 3/5. One of the wonders to be released which is sought after.

Vehicle: BMW M5
Introduction date: Unknown
A performance focused model of the 5 Series which, of course, targeted the filthy rich enthusiast minded driver. Unlike the M3, this one is a rare sight due to its price and exorbitant maintenance costs.
Significance rating: 2/5. You can't really please everyone.

Vehicle: BMW X5
Introduction date: October 2001
The Land Rovers are for the very very rich, while the BMW X5 is reserved for those who have active lifestyles. It made a first and that is to introduce a diesel power plant and after no one seemed to complained especially it brought an advantage when it comes to power.
Significance rating: 4/5. European SUV and diesel engine is now a great combination.

Vehicle: BMW Z4
Introduction date: April 2003
Replacing the great looking but performance underwhelming Z3 is the Z4. It gained more length which ensured driving stability and powerful engines which left you breathless. One of the popular convertibles available locally.
Significance rating: 3/5. Heaps better than the Z3 you're wising for summer.

Vehicle: Chevrolet Aveo
Introduction date: August 2003 for hatchback. July 2006 for sedan
City and Vios challenger one: the Korean made Aveo. While it had an alluring low price, the engines aren't class leading and maintenance costs way higher than the Japs. A brand new price which undercuts popular vehicles never helped, either.
Significance rating: 2/5. Wrong timing for such a right vehicle.

Vehicle: Chevrolet Optra
Introduction date: August 2003 for sedan. January 2006 for wagon
After the flopped Cassia, the Optra placed Chevrolet on the compact sedan road until problems and better rivals popped in. It was the first in class to have a wagon body and offering more than the equivalent Corolla or Civic. Time for this vehicle had passed.
Significance rating: 3/5. It showed potential, only at the beginning.

Vehicle: Chevrolet Suburban
Introduction date: 2001
People who are tired of their usual Expeditions can console themselves with the Suburban. Unlike the Blue Oval competitor, it has more room and power. Interestingly enough, when BIR evaluated 10 seater vehicles or more, this was the vehicle that met the criteria.
Significance rating: 3/5. Popular but unnoticeable.

Vehicle: Chevrolet Tahoe
Introduction date: September 2002
The Tahoe can do a Suburban here: it has the same power with a smaller size. However, unlike the larger sibling this didn't succeed because it was part of an irregular line-up.
Significance rating: 2/5. Smaller and cheaper does not mean best seller.

Vehicle: Chevrolet Venture
Introduction date: November 2001
Competing with the Kia Carnival and the Hyundai Starex, the Venture found buyers especially for those who prefer their rides American than Korean. Like the Optra, it became a popular vehicle until its time had passed.
Significance rating: 3/5. A car whose popularity had passed by.

Vehicle: Chrysler Town and Country
Introduction date: 2003
Transfarm made us sick and tired of overpriced and underspeced Chrysler minivans and the last of the series is the Town and Country, which was modern than the old Caravan they we're also offering. For a tag price of P1.5M, cloth seats come standard. When CATS stepped to the scene, they've corrected things such as after-sales and equipment for the price.
Significance rating: 2/5. Another Chrysler minivan that is overpriced? D'oh!

Vehicle: Dodge Dakota
Introduction date: 2001
On an attempt to go upmarket, the Dakota is launched to the Philippine market when the American pick-ups are at their peak. Smaller in size compared to the F150 and Silverado, this one had a V8 engine under the hood. Just like the other Chrysler products available, it was priced out of reach and the standard equipment ain't justifiable
Significance rating: 1/5. Together with the Silverado, no one bothered to buy them.

Vehicle: Ford Escape
Introduction date: August 2002
First made available to the export market, Ford Motor Philippines finally made the Escape available to the local market. It competed with the redesigned RAV4, CR-V, and Grand Vitara and made some friends with the competition. Apart from its classic looks, it had an alluring price which enable those who want an SUV for a low price.
Significance rating: 3/5. Ford's entry to the compact SUV race is successful.

Vehicle: Ford Everest
Introduction date: October 2003
Based on the Ranger pick-up, the Everest is the one way ticket for an affordable SUV which fits seven souls.  After its arrival, numerous pick-up truck based SUV's arrived especially it gave way to the industry's most heated rivalry: Toyota Fortuner vs. Mitsubishi Montero Sport.
Significance rating: 5/5. The Fortuner must thank this one especially it had more time to prepare.

Vehicle: Ford Expedition
Introduction date: December 2002
It may not be the Expedition the Sexbomb Girls mentioned on their song but it was the improved second generation which appealed to the upper class. While the owner can driver in comfort, their chauffeurs still rule with this vehicle.
Significance rating: 3/5. For those who had the money, the Expedition is hard to beat.

Vehicle: Honda Accord
Introduction date: 2003
No more sporting bland lines of the past, it now looks classy and brought in one big innovation: the option for a V6 engine. It may be discreet looking but executives love that profile right?
Significance rating: 3/5. Popular sedan which prefers things to be quiet.

Vehicle: Honda City
Introduction date: May 2003
Never mind the styling which can be compensated by the introduction of a fold rear seat and the CVT transmission. The former became an asset while the latter a liability, especially failures are reported. It gained prominence when the late Pocholo Ramirez tested its fuel efficiency from Pagudpud to Sorsogon in one full tank.
Significance rating: 5/5. The boring vehicle of the past is buried with the second generation model.

Vehicle: Honda Civic
Introduction date: February 2001
This generation of Civic brought in both good and bad news. Good is the addition of safety features and a flat rear door. Bad were the increase in price which lacked key features that allowed the Altis and Exalta to claw in market share.
Significance rating: 4/5. A vehicle of mixed success which takes revenge later on.

Vehicle: Honda CR-V
Introduction date: April 2002
Known for cramming 10 people inside and become Honda's first entry to the AUV category due to taxation reasons. This outsold the Civic since it can bring 10 people (3 upfront, 4 in the middle, and 3 at the back) at the expense of build quality. It may have cheap plastics but those who usually travel with their family and prefer Honda, this is it.
Significance rating: 5/5. Because of this, BIR implemented tax schemes on vehicles based on value.

Vehicle: Honda S200
Introduction date: 2001
Those who are fans of JDM vehicles or extensively traveled to Japan know this vehicle. This, along with the Integra and Civic Type R, brings back the joys of driving fun from the Honda stable. No thanks to a high price and the market's disinterest towards the convertibles, it flopped.
Significance rating: 1/5. Close but no cigarette.

Vehicles: Hyundai Coupe, Sonata, and XG
Introduction date: November 2003
After months of peddling Starex vans and Matrix hatchbacks, it was time for Hyundai to compete in the passenger car market. The Coupe made a dent especially no known serious rivals exist while the Sonata and XG failed miserably.
Significance rating: 3/5 for Coupe, 1/5 for Sonata and XG. Different vehicles with different success rates.

Vehicle: Hyundai Matrix
Introduction date: March 2003
Long before the success hit the Getz and i10 later on, we had first the Matrix. With no known competitors in the market, it had a following but then, Hyundai is known for their vans back then which makes it existence little known.
Significance rating: 2/5. Close, but not cigar.

Vehicle: Isuzu Crosswind
Introduction date: June 2001
When it was introduced as the replacement for the Hilander, the Revo and Adventure felt old and outdated. No gasoline engine is made available but it offered an automatic transmission and an AV system. Many of them are still plying Philippine roads until today.
Significance rating: 5/5. A new nameplate that made a dent in the market.

Vehicle: Isuzu D-Max
Introduction date: November 2003
One of the groundbreaking vehicles which made rivals back then looking older. Replacing the Fuego is the D-Max that offered a more refined engine and a first in the competition, push buttons for the 4WD system. No need to fiddle the desired gear while driving.
Significance rating: 4/5. This shook every rival to make their truck the best than the competition can offer.

Vehicle: Jaguar X-Type
Introduction date: 2001
This Jaguar brought in the good and bad sides of the leaping cat brand. Its low price ensured anyone who wants a Jaguar can buy one but no thanks to its Ford Mondeo (which is pedestrian), the image is somewhat diluted. Those who want their image quiet chose this than the 3 Series or C Class.
Significance rating: 2/5. The entry ticket to the good life which compromised its image.

Vehicle: Jaguar XJ
Introduction date: December 2003
One of the top picks of top honchos apart from the common 7 Series and S Class sedans. This British saloon (we're using the English term) is low key and flaunts your wealth with the fear of being kidnapped. Only the educated ones purchased this one, not those who wanted to pose.
Significance rating: 2/5. Reserved only for the selected few.

Vehicle: Kia Retona
Introduction date: 2001
To spice up Kia's line-up in the early 2000s, the Retona was brought in as a niche vehicle. This rivaled the Ssangyong Korando but both of them didn't find a market. People who had the money went to the Suzuki Jimny instead. Oh, the word Retona meant "Return to Nature" and not a deodorant brand whose X was swapped with T.
Significance rating: 1/5. Wrong car in the wrong time.

Vehicle: Kia Sorento
Introduction date: November 2003
With ridiculous tax rates abolished, Kia launched their brand revitalizing SUV which aims to vanish those bad dreams associated with the Sportage. It battled several compacts and mid-sizers to varying degrees of success.
Significance rating: 3/5. One of the desirable Kia vehicles.

Vehicle: Land Rover Freelander
Introduction date: 2001
Land Rover's plan is to go down in size and their product is the Freelander. It sold to the few market who prefers their ride Made in UK than something from Germany.
Significance rating: 2/5. Few takers despite the badge.

Vehicle: Land Rover Range Rover
Introduction date: 2002
A product of fine engineering which the upper echelons prefer to flaunt their success with. From politicians to top executives, the Range Rover found fans with them, crisis notwithstanding.
Significance rating: 3/5. Those who have the money would love to have this one.

Vehicles: Mazda 6 and Tribute
Introduction date: February 2004
After Columbian Autocar Corporation ceased assembly of Mazda passenger cars, Ford Group Philippines returned the brand. The February launching may coincide with valentines, but Ford loved us especially that the brand will zoom-zoom towards the Philippine streets .
Significance rating: 3/5. These vehicles are just the appetizers, the main course of success to be featured in the next part.

Vehicle: Mercedes Benz CLK Class
Introduction date: 2003
Mercedes' personal coupe had been redesigned for its second generation and still has its own clientele. Still, if you are selfish and single but want to drive something prominent, then you have a choice.
Significance rating: 3/5. Going personal and luxurious for Benz is a top act.

Vehicle: Mercedes Benz E Class
Introduction date: May 2002
CMC's regular was given a retouch for the 2003 model year as early as 2002. It brought in a diesel engine which was later deleted but retained the image associated with a Benz. Notwithstanding the numerous reliability problems, this sold well to the elite market.
Significance rating: 4/5. Nothing still beats the aura of a Benz.

Vehicle: Mercedes Benz SL Class
Introduction date: 2002
If the SLK isn't enough for you, then the SL offers more power and presence. Even though the economy isn't doing well, CATS was brave enough to offer this one despite the stratospheric pricing.
Significance rating: 2/5. Those who had the money purchased this but for us mere mortals, nah.

Vehicle: Mercedes Benz Viano
Introduction date: 2003
Replacing the Vito which was "wrongly" suited for the Philippine market, the Viano is leaps ahead than the model it replaced. It was more refined and adapted for the local market but at the price, people went with the usual European SUV's or a Japanese van.
Significance rating: 1/5. The Germans did not succeed in selling a van in the Philippines.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi Lancer
Introduction date: January 2003
People were tired of the endless updates the Lancer Pizza since its September 1996 introduction. No more a boring piece of product which introduced modern touches like a CVT transmission and on-board VCD player. This, however, played second choice behind the Altis and Civic.
Significance rating: 3/5. Mitsubishi's current success lies with the commercial vehicles, not with passenger sedans.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII
Introduction date: 2002
After not offering the VI, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines slipped in several units (only five were offered) to the Philippines without any dealer advisory. All of them found an owner but due to the proliferation of imports from Subic, Mitsubishi had to temporary cease importation of this beast.
Significance rating: 3/5. A great car ruined by some great imports.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi Outlander
Introduction date: October 2003
It was compact SUV invasion during the first part of Gloria's period, thanks to the somewhat improved economy. Mitsubishi pitted in the Outlander but problem is no one bothered to check the vehicle out. Mitsubishi is still known for its Pajeros during that time.
Significance rating: 3/5. Somewhat successful which no one bothered.

Vehicle: Mitsubishi Pajero
Introduction date: October 2003
After the Intercooler and Field Master, it was damn time for the Pajero to be updated. No more noisy diesel engines and rudimentary suspension system, a more modern chassis complemented with the latest diesel or gasoline engines. These improvements came with a huge price increase, though.
Significance rating: 4/5. The Pajero you've known had leveled up.

Vehicle: Nissan 350z
Introduction date: November 2003
A product of Ghosn's excitement rejuvenation to Nissan and this succeeded. In the Philippine market, it was the opposite since prices were comparable to European offerings. Still, a great effort locally and we wish for the 370z or GTR that is backed up by dealer support.
Significance rating: 3/5. An outstanding product ruined by money.

Vehicle: Nissan Sentra Exalta
Introduction date: June 2001
Another vehicle whose name was added, the Exalta proves that this is not anymore the Sentra plagued with low residuals. It was dressed up to the rim: leather seats, VCD player, sunroof, and disc changer. You can have luxury amenities without the expensive maintenance costs of a Benz.
Significance rating: 3/5. Their luxury theme experiment is just short lived.

Vehicle: Nissan Sentra
Introduction date: February 2004
Going towards value than luxury, this updated Sentra can be considered as a downhill sign for Nissan. Sure, it may have a 1.3 engine coupled to a large cabin, but the inclination to sell more of them to taxi fleets spelled disaster to Nissan's brand equity.
Significance rating: 3/5. Salable at the expense of brand imaging.

Vehicle: Nissan Serena
Introduction date: April 2002
Replacing the unrelated Vanette, the Serena is heaps better than the model it replaced. Battling with the Ventutre and Carnival, this van had a narrow width that is useful in tight corners the metro is known for. Just like the Venture, its popularity waned when it got older.
Significance rating: 3/5. One of the saving graces of Nissan until it was mismanaged.

Vehicle: Nissan X-Trail
Introduction date: July 2003
After several attempts to raise Nissan's brand equity, the X-Trail was a winner. It had low prices which is coupled with flexible financial terms. The longer it lasted, the appeal went downhill especially with the arrival of new competitors.
Significance rating: 5/5. Nissan had a winner here, if they managed it correctly.

Vehicles: Peugeot 206, 206cc, and 307
Introduction date: October 2003
Renault failed, so its Peugeot's turn to taste the Philippine market especially during it's October 2003 launching. The 206, 206cc, and 307 are perfect for our diminutive streets which was later killed by unstable Euro-Peso exchange rates. The current distributor, under the helm of Columbian Motors, does a good job on selling these cars.
Significance rating: 2/5. Of course, pricing is a factor of success.

Vehicle: Porsche Cayenne
Introduction date: 2003
The big question was can Porsche succeed in the SUV race? The answer was a resounding yes, polarizing styling notwithstanding. This one can bring your family anywhere rain or shine. 10 years later, Porsche is making a saga to their SUV telenovela with the compact Macan.
Significance rating: 4/5. Taking risks is one great feat for Porsche.

Vehicle: Rolls Royce Silver Seraph
Introduction date: 2002
Another vehicle that the group of Rodriguez and Enrile brought and failed. We all know the aura of a Rolls Royce but it was of wrong timing since not all are willing to part ways with their cash.
Significance rating: 1/5. Definitely the wrong time to launch super luxury vehicles.

Vehicles: Smart Fortwo and Roadster
Introduction date: January 2004
The master of minimizing road space arrived to the Philippines. One can order a Smart Fortwo or Roadster through CATS Motors which costs seven figures brand new. Definitely a plaything of the rich and for P1M, people would want to purchase a Honda CR-V than this one.
Significance rating: 1/5. It saves space but did anyone care?


Vehicles: Ssangyong Rexton and Rhino
Introduction date: 2003
After the slight success of the Musso, Wheels Inc. (a Hyundai/Kia/Suzuki dealership based in Metro Manila) won distribution rights for Ssangyong vehicles. The first two vehicles made available were the Rexton and Rhino which saw a limited market. The Rexton won buyers while the Rhino remained glued.
Significance rating: 2/5 for Rexton. 1/5. for Rhino. The Rexton made sense but the Rhino was unnecessary.

Vehicle: Ssangyong Rodius
Introduction date: 2004
Styling aside, the Rodius (also known as the Stavic) had tons of space, a smooth ride, and strong diesel engine. However, these good traits were buried by a controversial styling especially at the rear portion which looked like it was just placed for the sake of having a final design.
Significance rating: 2/5. Bad things will be buried from the good traits.

Vehicle: Subaru Forester
Introduction date: 2001
The first Subaru to be offered under GM's helm. People mistaken it as a raised wagon with AWD, Subaru bills it as a compact SUV that eats CR-V's and RAV4's for lunch. This didn't sell well especially not all humans know the brand.
Significance rating: 2/5. Subaru's time to shine isn't during 2001.

Vehicle: Subaru Forester
Introduction date: September 2002
A revised Forester was offered to the madlang buyers. It was still the raised wagon people knew but later updates gave this SUV a turbo engine which provided more punch. With this model, it gained Subaru a foothold on the market, one at a time.
Significance rating: 3/5. Slowly but surely, the brand is on the right track.

Vehicle: Subaru Impreza WRX
Introduction date: March 2002
GM Automobiles Pilipinas launched the Impreza WRX which appealed to rally enthusiasts. So successful it became a part of its regular line-up, unlike the Evo that only a limited number of units are shipped in leaving prospective buyers scratching their heads.
Significance rating: 4/5. A future classic.

Vehicle: Suzuki Jimny
Introduction date: August 2002
Now more modern than the Samurai, the Jimny is the most affordable SUV your money can buy, but the smallest. Now, you can enjoy the muddy terrains and rocky roads without occupying too much space and wasting fuel.
Significance rating: 3/5. This has a cult following among off-road enthusiasts.

Vehicle: Toyota Camry
Introduction date: July 2002
The first generation model was unnoticed, so Toyota made ways to make the vehicle in the shopping lists of buyers. More room and more presence which made this a second choice behind the Cefiro.
Significance rating: 4/5. Toyota surely learned from their mistakes and earned a winner.

Vehicle: Toyota Corolla Altis
Introduction date: July 2001
When the Honda Civic ES received lukewarm reception, the Altis was critically acclaimed since it was a huge leap forward from the taxi popular predecessor. Lots of buyers lined up for one until its popularity waned due to the Vios.
Significance rating: 5/5. It gave numerous rivals a scare to improve their vehicles.

Vehicle: Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
Introduction date: November 2003
After an unnoticed first generation Prado, the second generation model was launched with moderate success. It also gave the Mitsubishi Pajero BK a run for its money.
Significance rating: 3/5. Now a favorite of the affluent people.

Vehicle: Toyota Previa
Introduction date: November 2003
Together with the Land Cruiser Prado, the Previa was reintroduced after fixing the ridiculous tax rates for vehicles. It offered first class luxury and the seating layout is akin to an airplane, thanks to the middle row captain's chairs.
Significance rating: 3/5. The American minivan added that Japanese flavor.

Vehicle: Toyota Vios
Introduction date: May 2003
With the Altis getting larger in size, as well as the intense competition faced by the Honda City launched in the same month, its damn time for Toyota to release their sub-compact sedan offering in the name of the Vios. It may not have foldable rear seats but it offers two vital items: bulletproof reliability and fuel sipping engines. Toyota made this anonymous name a household item.
Significance rating: 5/5. A new name which made an impact in the market, even without Britney Spears.

Vehicle: Volkswagen Touareg
Introduction date: 2003
European luxury SUV's are in the rage in the early 00s, Auto Prominence Corporation entered the luxury SUV party with the Volkswagen Touareg. It may be a fine vehicle but pricing killed an otherwise excellent Volkswagen
Significance rating: 2/5. A vehicle lost in translation got lost in the local market.


Vehicles: Volvo S40
Introduction date: May 2004
Viking Cars brought in the redesigned S40 whose underpinnings are based from the Ford Focus and Mazda 3. The good thing is that, despite the sharing, the Volvo has its own distinct personality.
Significance rating: 3/5. Platform sharing does not mean same for all, Volvo succeeded it.

Vehicle: Volvo S60
Introduction date: April 2001
Replacing the boxy S70, the S60 had curves which ready to play with the C Class and 3 Series back then. Not that much fun to drive but it has an edge on safety and turbocharging. It had its own market, which is good.
Significance rating: 3/5. Unnoticed vehicle that can acquit itself.

Vehicle: Volvo XC90
Introduction date: November 2003
A late entrant to the SUV party, the XC90 may not have the sporty pretension of the X5 but it gave emphasis on one thing: safety. Low profile families bought them in droves and after 10 years, the design is still the same.
Significance rating: 3/5. Salable but didn't give the BMW a dent.

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