DAS AUTO RETURNS

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vwlaunch20131001A fixture on the Philippine car landscape for decades, VW emerges fresh from a couple of hibernation periods to likely never go missing again

VW, which had gone on company leave in the Philippines for at least a couple of times, has officially returned under the distributorship of Automobile Central Enterprises Inc. (ACEI)—a member of the Ayala Group. Which means that the German marque will most likely never slip into hibernation again.

VW’s comeback was marked last weekend by the “People’s Car Celebration” event that started with the brand’s presentation at Tower One and Ayala Museum, before moving on to the car displays and various activities around Greenbelt Park, one of which even dangled a new 21st Century Beetle as the prize.

Showcased at the presentation—led by Ayala Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Fernando Zobel de Ayala and VW AG Executive Vice President and China and Asean operations chief Weiming Soh—were the VW Touareg, Touran, Tiguan, Polo Hatchback, Golf, CC and Phaeton. To highlight the brand’s history across the planet and in the Philippines, Soh brought on stage a classic Beetle. To link this history with the present, Zobel drove in in a new Beetle Cabriolet.

The VW Group is the largest European automotive manufacturer. With 12 brands under its wing—Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ducati, VW Commercial Vehicles, Scania and MAN—the group has declared it intends to be the world’s top auto manufacturer by 2018. At present, the VW Group operates 104 production plants around the world, with more than 550,000 employees building more than 37,700 vehicles per working day.


Brand launch

“Tonight is chapter one,” said Soh at a news conference held on the sidelines of the People’s Car event. “We are not launching a dealership but, more importantly, a brand.”

The VW AG executive also noted that the marque’s presence in the Philippines is part of the company’s growth plans in Asean.

“We have to be present in Asean. I don’t think Asean prefers only Japanese cars. It has been proven in many [Asean] markets that Volkswagen’s market share is able to improve dramatically—three-fold or four-fold—within two to three years,” Soh said.

In a statement, Zobel noted the Ayala company’s satisfaction at being “instrumental in bringing back” the iconic VW brand in the Philippines.

“A heritage brand, Volkswagen is indeed the original people’s car. And because Ayala is a company that cares deeply about Filipinos, that is a personal pride for us,” Zobel said.

Meanwhile, during a roundtable that preceded VW’s official launch, ACEI President John Philip Orbeta said that ACEI has been preparing to make sure that the VW brand was successfully launched.

“For baby boomers we are reconnecting, but for the millennial generation we are introducing,” he said.

New VWs

Displayed at various spots in Greenbelt Park during the weekend event were VW’s Scirocco R, Golf, Passat and a couple of concept cars, as well as the models launched locally—the Jetta, Touran, Tiguan and Touareg. A 21st Century Beetle, which ACEI said will soon join its stable, was one of the highlighted models, too.

Orbeta said the numerous VW vehicles were meant to show that the brand has a full range of models—“not just the Beetle.”

Citing supply issues and gasoline-fuel concerns, ACEI said it will initially be offering four diesel-powered VW models. Heading the lineup is the Jetta 2.0 TDI, priced at P1.295 million, followed by the Touran 2.0 TDI (P1.775 million), the Tiguan 2.0 TDI (P2.109 million) and the Touareg V6 TDI (P4.290 million).

VW’s first dealership, located at Bonifacio Global City, had started selling on September 28 while VW’s 15-vehicle bay, 2,000-square-meter service center in Sheridan Street, Mandaluyong City, had also began operations on the same day.

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