Monday, March 21, 2016

Car Features - The Pops and Flops of Fidel's Administration

Automobile sales had increased during the term of Fidel Ramos, from 60,000 in 1992 to a peak of 160,000 in 1996 but has dropped moderately to 144,000 in 1997, the year that the Asian Financial Crisis started. His administration saw the arrival of new players with some had gone out of the dodo and the return of old-timers, car programs were initiated included the likes of the Luxury Car Program in 1992 and Car Development Program in 1996 that coincided with a market deregulation in February of that year.

In this feature, we shall discover the vehicles that were launched during his six year term (technically, he started in June 30, 1992 but we shall count the first six months) and discover the hits and the misses in terms of sales and market reception. One rule: only one hit or miss per years but numerous cars under one brand can fall if applicable. There are runner-ups but only a maximum of six cars will be listed. Lastly, we will be focusing more on mainstream brands and less for luxury brands. In this series, we will be including vehicle related events that had occurred.

1992 HIT - Toyota Corolla (July 1992)

A car that had defined a decade, the Corolla (called the Big Body due to its large proportions) introduced numerous firsts for a best seller that included a shift to EFI for the 1.6, rear seat belts, and the launch of cup holders. So common that each patrol car, taxicab, or even something driven by a private citizen is a Corolla, and you wouldn't miss this one. By the way, sales had reached an all time high of 17,000 units in 1996.

Other hits: Honda Civic Hatchback (April 1992), Mitsubishi L200 (1992)

1992 MISS - Mitsubishi Spacewagon (1992)

The concept of something carlike that can accommodate three rows of seats is a foreign idea back then, with those that can seat more are relegated to the likes of the L300 and Liteace during that time. Mitsubishi brought in the Spacewagon as a niche car and not all warmed to the idea. Spiritual successors included the likes of the Kia Carens and Nissan Grand Livina, which were introduced a decade later.

Other misses: Fiat Uno (1992)

1993 HIT - Mitsubishi Galant (1993)

Mid-size sedans are an option for those who went up the corporate ladder; and while Nissan had failed miserably and Toyota sold modestly, Mitsubishi's Galant was a best seller especially it had no direct rival during the late 80s. This redesign had the launch of the 2.0 6-cylinder engine found in the top end VR, as well as a automatic climate control in a mainstream brand. So popular it had rivaled Honda's Accord and Nissan's Cefiro throughout selling life.

Other hits: Honda Civic sedan (March 1993), Toyota Tamaraw FX (December 1993), Mitsubishi Lancer (1993), Kia Pride sedan (1993)

1993 MISS - Nissan Altima (October 1993)

Nissan had a history of failures when it comes to the mid-size category. The streak had continued on with the Altima, which replaced the Bluebird that isn't successful too. Based on the Bluebird, this one had jellybean looks and an option between a 1.8 or 2.0 engine, the former not having power windows in its option.

1994 HIT - Honda Accord (February 1994)

A young player, Honda expressed to go upmarket after selling Civics with this Accord and it was a successful attempt at the mid-size market. Kidnappings were commonplace and the upper class wanted something that shouts their status without any threats, and this one fits the bill. First models didn't get any VTEC technology, with a 1996 update having these at least for the 2.2 models.

1994 MISS - Honda Legend (1994)

1994 was also the year Honda brought in the Legend, a luxury sedan aimed at the Toyota Crown. Although the Crown faced tough competition from Mercedes Benz and Volvo, this one stayed glued inside showrooms. While it was successful in compacts and mid-sized sedans, they aren't ready in peddling luxury level vehicles.

Other misses: Nissan Cedric (June 1994), Mazda 323 Astina (1994)

1995 HIT - Kia Besta (May 1995)

The Besta's success can be attributed to the ambulances that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) had purchased back then. Otherwise, this van dislodged the L300 Versa Van in the top position in the mid to late 90s. An advantage is the price, which undercut most rivals plus dealer network that is wide.

Other hits: Mitsubishi Pajero (1995), Nissan Sentra (March 1995)

1995 MISS - Daewoo Espero (June 1995)

Newcomer Daewoo added the Espero, a mid-size sedan but priced similarly to compacts, in the line-up and complementing the rather basic Racer. This one didn't sell well compared to the cheaper model in the range, plus adding a 2.0 engine in 1996 made no effect in sales. Daewoo sales fell later on and caused the brand to pull out at the turn of the millennium.

Other misses: Proton Wira (1995), Hyundai Excel (1995), Mazda E200 (1995)

1996 HIT - Honda Civic (November 1995 as 1996 model)

Known as the EK, this Civic brought in Honda's vaunted VTEC technology plus double wishbones for its suspension system. If there is one main contributor for Honda's lead in the passenger car category, this would be the one as almost half of these are Civics. Honda would sometime become number one in passenger car sales until the early 2000s while it is the best selling in its class sometime in 1999 to 2000.

Other hits: Mitsubishi Lancer (September 1996), Mazda 323 Familia (April 1996), Nissan Cefiro (November 1996), Honda City (October 1996)

1996 MISS - Kia Sportage (May 1996)

Columbian Autocar Corporation was busy in expanding their vehicle line-up, from adding new brands like Land Rover and Subaru to bringing in new models to Kia and Mazda. One of them is the Sportage SUV, the Korean brand's first attempt to the booming category. While it was priced below a million bucks, not much buyers are willing to take this since the idea of a compact SUV is foreign to most.

Other miss: Volkswagen Caravelle and Polo Classic (May 1996), Daewoo Cielo and Prince (September 1996), Hyundai Sonata, Elantra, and Coupe (July 1996), Subaru Legacy (April 1996)

1997 HIT - Honda CR-V (August 1997)

If there is one vehicle that is responsible for the boom of the compact SUV category, this is the one. While the Suzuki Vitara and Kia Sportage went first and the Toyota RAV4 was introduced earlier, the CR-V became a catalyst of the category which caused numerous rivals to enter to the scene. This Civic based vehicle had standard all wheel drive and priced modestly which was a recipe for success.

Other hits: Isuzu Hilander (March 1997), Toyota Corolla (November 1997)

1997 MISS - Suzuki Esteem (1997)

While the Vitara is a seller for Suzuki, they felt that they need to expand their portfolio to attract more buyers. Their first attempt at the passenger car race is the Esteem station wagon, which was a breath of fresh air at that time. However, nobody noticed this vehicle except for those who wanted something else.

Other misses: Honda Odyssey (March 1997), Toyota Camry (1997), Mitsubishi Spacegear (1997)

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