THE Philippine market for light commercial trucks, dominated as it is by the Mitsubishi L300, the Hyundai H100, and the Kia K2700, is not an easy place for a new entrant to survive, let alone thrive. But the latest offering from Universal Motors Corporation’s Bayan Auto appears set to not just carve out a niche for itself, but dominate the class.
The H5 Bayanihan is a perfect fit for commercial users in the Philippines, with several design features – such as air conditioning as standard equipment – being added to the basic platform produced by China’s BAIC to provide reliable, economical and comfortable service for Philippine customers.
On basic specifications alone, the H5 Bayanihan is a formidable competitor to its more established peers. Apart from the aforementioned air conditioning (offered as a dealer-installed option for most competing models), the H5 offers cabin heat – a welcome option for those trips into the mountains – a skylight/roof vent for natural airflow, full electronic instrumentation, power steering and front corner fog lamps. With a 2,700-millimeter wheelbase, the H5 has a bigger footprint than the L300, H100 and K2700, and excels in load capacity, being able to move a full 1,670 kilograms, more than 300 kg more than its nearest rival, the K2700.
Only Euro 4 in its class
Where the H5 really outclasses its competitors, however, is under the hood. The 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder diesel is the only turbocharged engine in the class, and as of now, the only one certified by the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as being Euro 4 compliant.
This is a critical concern for potential customers, as only Euro 4 or higher compliant new vehicles will be accepted for registration starting January 1, 2018, in accordance with the Clean Air Act; all the H5’s competitors’ larger (ranging in displacement from 2.5 to 2.7 liters) naturally-aspirated diesel packages are only rated for Euro 2. While all the manufacturers have plans to introduce Euro 4-compliant vehicles as soon as they can, the reality of the time needed to develop test, and obtain certification raises the distinct possibility that at least for a time, the H5 Bayanihan might be the only player in the light commercial truck segment.
Another advantage of the H5 is its economy; the lower-revving turbo engine is easy on the fuel budget while providing more than enough power to move the truck’s rated load, developing 60 hp at 3,200 rpm and 150 Newton-meters of torque at 2,000 rpm.
All this is available at a competitive price that any fleet manager would have a hard time overlooking. The base cab and chassis package has a price of P598,000 – about P7,000 less than the base L300 package; at P628,000 for the dropside cargo deck-equipped version, the H5 is nearly P200,000 less than a similarly-equipped K2700.
Apart from the dropside version, Bayan Auto has also tied up with Almazora for two more body options: An 18-seat, rear air conditioning-equipped FB version that adds P175,000 to the base price, and an aluminum cargo box configuration, a P95,000 option.
Of course, any business user – whether a small business with just one vehicle, or a larger company managing an entire fleet – must put reliability near the top of the list of priority concerns. The best evidence of reliability is most often the trust others put in the vehicle and the company standing behind it. Bayan Auto President George Chua disclosed, with justifiable pride, that the H5 Bayanihan has already caught the attention of some big users, including Bounty Fresh Chicken (supplier of the popular Chooks-to-Go roast chicken franchises), which has purchased an entire fleet of 75 of the sturdy little trucks.
And with a network of 22 authorized service centers in addition to the seven BAIC dealerships located around the country (in Makati, Taguig, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Tacloban and Zamboanga), repair and maintenance care is never far away.
Chua also pointed out that Bayan Auto has made financing easy for commercial customers, having tied up with seven banks so far to offer special loan packages for fleet purchases, whether for one vehicle or several.
With options, performance and price that matches or exceeds anything else in its class in the Philippines, the H5 Bayanihan is certain to be familiar sight on our roads for years to come.