Of cars and men; Toyota and Honda


I would like to take a break from politics and touch on of my special interest in automobiles, which is perhaps a “man’s thing.” These cars include Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPVs), vans (mini and regular), and even pick-ups.

Thirty-five years ago in 1980, I wrote a manuscript entitled “Automotive Operations & Preventive Maintenance System (PMS)” after reading books on the subject and availing of my mechanical engineering background. Well, no one wanted to publish it because they believed that it would not sell. One publisher said that readers would prefer to buy cookbooks than books on cars and their maintenance. Perhaps true.

The reason for the book project was to share the information in layman’s language on how a car works and how to take care of them. Over the past decades, I have heard and seen how motor vehicle owners hardly know anything except to put gas in the tank. They don’t even know basic things such as checking the water, oil and the brake fluid. So sad.

This article is about my analyses of and suggestions on the designs of cars like the SUVs, MPVs, and vans that are in the market today in the Philippines. Hopefully, it will serve its purpose.

Toyota Avanza, Innova and Grandia
Let us start with the popular models produced by the world’s biggest auto manufacturer, Toyota Motors, of which I am a loyal client. We have bought four Toyota cars in the past 20 years and hope to buy newer ones. I even have the book Toyota Culture: The Heart & Soul of the Toyota Way by Jeffrey K. Liker and Michael Hosues.

First is the ubiquitous seven-seater Toyota Avanza that was first introduced in 2006. The first design of the Avanza was unattractive as what a mini- MPV is perhaps supposed to be.

Today, we see a lot of them – described as “plebean looking” in taxis in Metro Manila and Baguio, and service vehicles of companies like Maynilad Water.

The second-generation Avanza that came out in 2012 is a vast improvement from the original model from exterior to the interior design. Although it sold very well with its “upscale, high-tech” look, the new third model should come out far more attractive: the Avanza has to compete with the others like the Suzuki Ertiga and the Chevrolet Spin.

My expectation is for the new Avanza to be longer by 200 mm (eight inches) to match the length of the Spin and Ertiga. It will also be wider by 50 mm (two inches). This would be similar to the Toyota Vios that was stretched in its third-generation design. Hence, the new Avanza would have similar dimensions as the length, and width of its competitors.
The Toyota Avanza is already losing its mini-MPV market share in Indonesia by around 5.0 percent to the re-designed 2014 Honda Mobilio. Once the Mobilio model reaches the Philippines, the sales of the present Avanza model will surely suffer. A foreign stock market analyst said that perhaps Toyota Motors became too lazy and complacent. Time for Toyota to catch up with its design!

Now to the eight-seater Toyota Innova that will soon have their new models next year. After ten years of phenomenal sale in the Philippines, the new Innova is coming out in 2015.

I am excited because we have our 2005 Innova that was bought on the first year when it come out. For sure, the new Innova MPV will have sleeker or sexier lines like the new 2014 Altis model.

On the Toyota Grandia models, it is time to replace them with a better exterior design to start with. While the Grandia have its reputation for proven performance, its refrigerator-shaped design looks so boring The new model should be more stylish likr the Hyundai Starex that has already eaten into the sales of the Grandia vans. We are all excited and waiting – perhaps in 2016?

Honda CRV, Odyssey & Accord
When the Honda CRV came out in the late 1990s, it became an instant hit. True enough, it delivered its superior performance and many of them are still around after more than 15 years. However, the second model – classified as an Asian Utility Vehicle (AUV) – that came out in 2003 was a big flop because of its stiff ride and other deficiencies. Owners of the original CRV, who bought the new model, were sorely disappointed.

Honda redeemed itself with another best-seller when the third model came out from 2007 to 2012. Customers must have bought with “vengeance” since we see myriad of these CRV on the road still looking good and like new.

However, after six years of phenomenal sales, the latest CRV model launched in 2013 was a big disappointment. While the design of the front-grille, hood and lights looks stylish and similar to the Odyssey that came out in the same year, the rear design of the new CRV has a hunchback shape that has no appeal, to put it mildly. Perhaps I can apply for a job at Honda to evaluate their auto designs and get paid for it!

Speaking of the Odyssey, its sales surprisingly has not been that good in spite of its impressive reputation for the past 20 years. Between the Toyota Alphard and the Honda Odyssey, I will opt for the latter because it is of a similar quality, if not better, and cost less by P500,000.00 compared to the P3.0 Million Alphard. I will buy it if I have the money.

On the Accord luxury category, I am pleased that Honda finally produced two great models that have class or elegance.

Between the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord, I will go with the latter. Just like the Odyssey, I am surprised that the present and past models of the Accord have not sold as much as the Camry in the past five years.

I will write about the controversial Toyota Land Cruiser Prado of PNP Chief Allan Purisima and the mysterious Porsche Cayenne of President B. S. Aquino 3rd next time.



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  1. don’t trust backyard mechanics neither dealer’s. they are all cheaters except for a few.

    this is what i say – except for the few honest mechanics. US or foreign made cars (which i previously own) are the same mv functions just to be altered by mechanic cheaters… hahah u-lol

  2. Roldan Guerrero on

    I appreciate so much the very useful ideas and technical lessons about cars the columnist of this very important segment of the Manila Times, wrote, Everything you discussed Engr. Rick Ramos are very vital to every car owners in the Phils. However, I would suggest you should visit Japan if you have time…and I am sure you will understand better why Japanese Automakers don`t fully satisfy your taste on the products they export to the Phils. I will give you one reason, Car manufacturers dont make money on their sales in the Phils. for an ovbious reason that limited sales prevail in Phil. market, naturally they also limit their investments. In other words ROI is far from target. I would regret saying but the truth is, models that are not saleable are the only models brought to the Phils. Japanese Carmakers concentrate exporting their top of the line products to places like US, Europe etc, places where the can make real money. I you have time Sir, come here in Japan, I am sure you will see more to talk about.

    • The Toyota Avanza is made in Indonesia. It was first introduced to the Indonesian market in 2003, but only brought to PH in 2006. The sales of the Avanza in the Philippines has fairly been good, but even better in other parts of Asia where it is also exported. The Honda Mobilio and the Chevrolet Spin are also built in Indonesia like the Toyota Avanza primarily to cater to the burgeoning middle class market in Indonesia that has a population of 250 million. Other than PH, the Chevrolet Spin was also introduced in Thailand last year in 2013.

    • The Toyota Innova is built in PH just like the Toyota Vios. The Innova, like the Vios, has enjoyed phenomenal sales in PH in the past ten years (2005-2014) and has also been exported to the Asian countries. The Innova is the replacement of the popular Toyota Revo that was also made in the PH. The Toyota Grandia is made in Thailand that exports the popular vans to Asia.

  3. ” I have heard and seen how motor vehicle owners hardly know anything except to put gas in the tank. They don’t even know basic things such as checking the water, oil and the brake fluid. So sad” – Agree po ako. Furthermore, even Pilipino automotive technicians majority are not technically skilled in automotive technology.

    • True. Many are NOT because there is NO licensing requirement of auto mechanics in PH. So far, the BEST trained are the Toyota mechanics because of the training they received from Toyota Motors Phils., which has out up a Training Institute in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, in front of their 80-hectare Toyota Motors Phils compound.