After a rather eventful year, 2019 is officially done. Not only did the year signal a start for many government initiatives in the Philippines, but it was also a year filled with milestones for automotive manufacturers – both new, old, and familiar since some reintroduced themselves to the Philippine car buyer.
It’s 2020, but before we start with our new year’s resolutions, let’s look back at some of the more notable happenings in 2019. From launches to laws, here’s a look back at what we’ve covered.
Fuel Excise Tax
The start of 2019 was mired in a few sad happenings with regard to the fuel excise tax. The year 2019 saw the beginning of a fuel price increase that would be the bane of many motorists over the course of the entire year. Going into 2020, we’ll keep you guys posted on fuel prices as we always have.
The Philippines is preparing for EVs
A bill was filed for EV charging stations and parking slots early in 2019. The bill aims to improve the Philippines’ infrastructure for electric vehicles, hopefully lessening the number of fossil-fuel-powered cars on the road and pave the way for a greener electric future.
New Roads and Highways
New roads in the Philippines opened up in 2019, paving the way for more efficient routes in, out, and through the Metro. NLEX corporation opened its harbor link segment which allows motorists to traverse from Valenzuela to Caloocan City in only 5 minutes.
EDSA speed limit
The MMDA announced earlier in 2019, that they want a speed limit to be imposed on the busiest thoroughfare in the Philippines, the Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue or EDSA. In the interest of safety during non-peak hours, the law sought to protect motorists when there was more space to gain some speed.
Remembering Levy Laus
Levy Laus was an automotive powerhouse in his own right. The late tycoon passed away in 2019 due to a helicopter accident, and will forever be remembered for the empire he created. The Laus Auto Group stands as one of the bigger players in the Philippine market, and a leader such as Mr. Laus left many mourning the loss.
Saturday license renewal
The LTO has officially announced that it will allow motorists to renew licenses on Saturdays; hugely convenient for motorists in the Philippines.
Illegal parking fine increase
The MMDA increased the severity of illegal parking from P200 for an attended illegally parked vehicle, to P1,000 for an attended illegally parked vehicle. Motorists who leave their cars parked illegally without them in it face a fine of P2,000, and the fine for obstructing a road is now at P1,000 instead of the minuscule P150. Not only will a fine be posted, but the vehicle runs the possibility of being towed.
Progress on the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act
Last year was also another milestone in the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act which promotes the use and sale of proper Child Restraint Systems (CRS), for the Motoring public. More progress was made this year through several forums and seminars, which only shed more clarity on a rather overlooked issue.
The first all-new model to launch in 2019 was the Suzuki Ertiga small MPV to the market. The 7-seater’s popularity grew from here and became one of the more popular nameplates in the country as a worthy competitor in its segment.
Long-awaited, and much anticipated, the Suzuki Jimny finally makes its Philippine debut after months of teasing and nail-biting. Suzuki was ready to introduce the Jimny officially to market, with the model going on sale in March of 2019.
Also launched in 2019 was the new Suzuki Super Carry commercial vehicle, one of the smallest vehicles in its class, but with a bigger engine than it had in its prior incarnation. The commercial vehicle now has a 1.5L gasoline motor beating at its heart, with multiple body-configurations waiting.
The Kodo-design brand has had a renaissance of a year, and it started with the introduction of its compact contender, the Mazda3. With a lot of hype surrounding this new model, with an aging generation in dire need of a refresh, Mazda Philippines saw this as an opportunity to tease the Philippine public about the impending arrival of its new compact sedan in March, with the model officially going on sale in August with a sedan and Sportback body style.
Mazda later introduced the turbocharged and refreshed Mazda6 models into the Philippine lineup, with a turbocharged 2.5L sedan model and a naturally aspirated wagon to go with the 2.2L diesel variant available in the market.
The end of the year was ended in a double-whammy for Mazda Philippines. The parallel launch of the Mazda CX-30 and CX-8 grabbed people’s attention as the brand was looking to bolster its already-potent lineup of crossovers. The CX-30 is a compact crossover with an emphasis on the details, while the CX-8 is an unconventional midsize offering thanks to its split-middle row of seats allowing for a captain’s chair-like experience.
New for 2019, is the facelift to the midsize pickup, the Mitsubishi Strada. It comes with a new face and engine lifted straight from the Montero Sport. The pickup launched after the brand’s small MPV, the Xpander, which was lauded all throughout the year in multiple countries.
In the brand’s commercial vehicle segment, the L300 gets an update that brings the model up to date with regards to emissions. The classic hauler receives a new 2.2L engine that is Euro 4 compliant with this rather major update.
To end the year on a high note, Mitsubishi Philippines has opted to bring in the facelifted Montero Sport with the promise of the 4x4 GT variant for 2020. The newly facelifted midsize SUV features several new additions in its 4x2 GT variant such as an all-digital display and a new infotainment system capable of connecting to smartphones via USB and interfacing through either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Kia Philippines relaunched its entire brand under the Ayala Corporation. With the Korean brand in the Ayala family of companies, a new beginning for Kia was started, with a recurring theme for all of the launches which made people ask: “What’s in the box?”
The first car to launch to market under new management is affordable yet value-packed, and it is the Kia Soluto subcompact sedan. It was unboxed first by Kia Philippines who promised Filipinos more cars in the lineup for 2019.
The 2019 Manila International Auto Show (MIAS) would mark the launch of two turbocharged cars from the Kia brand. The first was the all-new Kia Forte GT, which came with a turbocharged engine and several accessories which extended the look of the compact sedan. The truly drool-worthy unboxing, though, belonged to the Kia Stinger GT, which had audiences clamoring to get a photo of or in the car during the show.
Hyundai Philippines, wanting to hop onto the affordable sedan trend, launched the counterpart to the Kia Soluto, the Hyundai Reina. The car was initially one of the more affordable sedans in the market, and demand plus some add-ons pushed the price up little by little a few months after its introduction to the market.
Hyundai Philippines used the bright lights of MIAS 2019 to launch its biggest and boldest crossover in the country, the Hyundai Palisade, a multi-awarded vehicle with a capable diesel engine and some futuristic styling.
2019 was an interesting year for crossovers. Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) wanted to show consumers that it still has a contender in the compact crossover segment in the form of the RAV4. The new model featured updated styling with a new 2.5L engine from the Japanese automaker. The debut color was also striking, as it was a bright blue that evokes a playful attitude.
The most popular one-make race also was reintroduced by the Toyota brand. What was once known as the Vios Cup, is now completely rebranded into the Toyota Vios Racing Festival. A crucial point to why organizers wanted a rebrand was for Toyota to reach more people with the inclusion of the Vios Autocross Challenge, in which we won silver in one of the legs.
The ever-popular full-size van from Toyota got a complete overhaul. Now featuring a nose and a different engine placement for even more room and cabin space, the Toyota Hiace held its official global launch and reveal in the Philippines. The Commuter and Grandia models were on full display during the event, with a second outing held for the luxurious counterpart, the Super Grandia.
Possibly one of the most historic and anticipated launches in the Philippines is the Mark V Toyota Supra. The fifth-generation coupe was teased by TMP during one of the Vios Racing Festival’s many legs. This is the first time that this model gets officially launched by Toyota for the Philippine market, making it a historic addition to the lineup.
The year was capped off with Toyota’s compact sedan's major update in 2019. The Corolla Altis marked the company’s move into a greener future with hybrid technology in its most popular nameplate across the globe. It serves as one of the first mass-market models to come with a hybrid powertrain and boasts some of the highest fuel-economy figures in the entire Toyota lineup.
In response to the success of other like-styled cars, Chevrolet Philippines has opted to bring in its entry into the highly competitive market of two-door coupes. Equipped with a turbocharged engine, the Chevrolet Camaro stands as a rival to the ever-popular Ford Mustang EcoBoost. The brand did not launch a V8 Camaro, however, but opted to have something even better, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, both of which debuted and were showcased in MIAS 2019.
An entry-level Honda was what several individuals were asking for after several concepts and a stylish Mobilio RS model hit showroom floors. Consumers finally got their small hatchback prayers answered in the form of the attractively styled Honda Brio, which also comes with several trims, including an RS variant.
After a lot of anticipation, the Honda Accord finally got a much-needed and well-deserved update with the inclusion of Honda Sensing tech into the spec sheet of the midsize sedan. It comes with the same engine as found in the top-of-the-line Honda Civic RS Turbo, and has a fastback design that is eye-catching and excitement-inducing.
While not a Philippine model at the moment, Honda Japan launched the new Honda Fit in its market with a completely new face and lineup for the 2020 model year. The new-look caused quite a stir all over the globe, as it was met with some reserve from long-time fans of the nameplate. Hopefully, we get to see this model in the metal in 2020.
A new managing director was appointed for Ford Philippines. PK Umashankar assumed his position on July 1, 2019, while the previous director, Bertrand Lessard, stepped down to make way for Umashankar.
The Ford Everest got a refresh for 2019, much like the Ford Ranger, the new model comes equipped with a 2.0L Biturbo engine in the top-spec Titanium trim, replacing the 5-cylinder 3.2L diesel engine found in previous models. The new diesel mill churns out the same figures that the Ranger Wildtrak and Raptor have making the midsize SUV a capable performer. The new model even has the same 10-speed automatic transmission that its pickup counterparts have.
The year ended big for the Blue Oval, with the Ford Transit, a minibus that is capable of seating 15 people at once. It comes with the brand’s tried and tested 2.2L diesel motor and is the biggest Ford vehicle to date. It is aimed at commercial users or regular consumers looking for a high-capacity vehicle.
Atsushi Najima, has been appointed as the new president and managing director for Nissan Philippines, Inc, after a stellar year of sales in 2018 under the leadership of Ramesh Narasimhan.
Another brand under the Ayala banner, Maxus came to the Philippines with big vehicles, which include the Maxus V80, a commercial vehicle that can serve as a people carrier or a cargo hauler, and the Maxus G10, a minivan is aimed at consumers looking for comfort and value.
Korean SUV Specialist, SsangYong introduced its Rexton midsize SUV to the Philippines in June of 2019. The vehicle sought to create another ripple in the segment with its lush interior and comfortable ride, thanks to its independent rear suspension.
Also another note in the brand’s portfolio for 2019 was the Musso which joined our pickup truck comparo. It featured 4x4 capabilities paired with a better load-bearing rear suspension setup.
Rounding out the year for SsangYong was a pair of diesel crossovers in the form of the Tivoli diesel and the new Korando, with the former being of the subcompact variety and the latter being of the compact class. These two models serve as the Korean brand’s entry into the widely-popular segment in the market.
After a whirlwind of a ride from its most popular model, the MG ZS, the company sought to create another segment shaker of its own in the form of the well-kitted MG 5 subcompact sedan. Announced and launched in September of 2019, the car sports well-mannered looks inside and out while having a feature set that is class-leading in the market.
The Chinese brand, Geely was brought into the Philippines by Sojitz G Auto Corporation (SGAP) and brought to market a notable vehicle in the form of the Geely Coolray, a subcompact crossover that offers turbocharged performance from a 1.5L three-cylinder motor. It’s one of the breakout brands of 2019 and is promising more in store for consumers in 2020 and beyond.
Another new brand entered the Philippines late in 2019, and that is DongFeng, a commercial vehicle manufacturer that has been operating since 1969, in China. It provides vehicles that cater to a wide range of uses and offers several models of varying sizes.
From the company that brought you Foton, United Asia Automotive Group, Inc. (UAAGI), comes Chery motor. The brand that made its rounds in the Philippines years prior was revived by UAAGI in 2019, and is looking to prove itself once again in the local market with affordably-priced crossovers that are worth a good look or two.