WHEN he was a young kid who loved cars and James Bond movies, Marc Tagle never thought he would one day represent Aston Martin cars in the Philippines.
“I was dreaming of owning one [Aston Martin] when I was young. When I was younger, I dreamed of owning a Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin,” Tagle said.
“But to think that one day that we would have rights to the brand [as distributor]was unimaginable at the time, because of course I was young, I was not business-oriented when I was a kid,” he added.
Tagle’s entry into the highly competitive sports/luxury car business, however, was no longer a surprise because he is a car enthusiast whose family has been involved in the automotive tire business for about 60 years. Besides heading Aston Martin Manila, Tagle is president and chief executive officer of Philippine Allied Enterprises Corporation (PAEC), the official representative and distributor of Bridgestone tires in the Philippines. His partner in Aston Martin Manila is the Soong family who are behind the Jaguar, Land Rover, Ferrari and Maserati brands in the country.
Under PAEC, Bridgestone tires have remained the market leader in the Philippines.
“Right now, we have a lot of segments when it comes to the tire industry. Of course, we have truck tires where we are the undisputed No. 1. We are talking about radial truck tires. And then we have off-the-road tires used for mining, we’re No. 1. For 4×4 tires, we’re also No. 1 and for passenger cars, we are No. 2,” Tagle said.
The bulk of Bridgestone tire sales comes from the brand’s retail networks, which number about 60. PAEC also supplies tires to car companies that have assembly operations in the Philippines like Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation and Isuzu Philippines Corporation.
“Although the OEM [original equipment manufacturer]sales gives you a monthly volume, we have a strong dealer network,” Tagle said.
“We have almost close to 60 retail networks and we are on an expansion plan on a year-to-year basis so eventually in a few years, we will have a hundred. We have three company-owned [retail outlets]and the rest are our dealers,” he added.
PAEC gets its tires from the Japan, Indonesia and Thailand.
Tagle is aware of the growing competition in the Philippine tire industry, but this has not prompted PAEC to substantially lower its prices because the company believes in the quality of Bridgestone tires. The past few years have seen the entry of numerous tire brands from Thailand, China and Taiwan, among others. There are about 30 tire brands in the Philippines today.
“We’re bothered in a sense [by the competition]because if you pool them all together, they’re already getting a substantial chunk of the market. I mean not a big chunk, but there’s some effect already, because at the end of the day, the Filipino consumer is still very price sensitive,” Tagle said.
Instead of lowering its prices to the level of its competitors, PAEC is educating its buyers on the benefits of using Bridgestone tires.
“So now, what we do is we’re educating them, what makes Bridgestone different from the other brands and that’s what will make them decide and say: ‘oh, that’s why Bridgestone is priced high because it’s durable, it’s safe, it gives you great performance,’” he added.
Tagle explained that Bridgestone tires can result in fuel savings particularly from its Ecopia line, or up to P3 per kilometer. He said that Bridgestone is still the No. 1 tire company in the world.
With the family’s tire enterprise being the bigger business, Tagle said he devotes most of his time to PAEC and Bridgestone. Selling tires is also more complex compared to selling Aston Martin cars.
“There’s so many factors on a day-to-day basis that you have to deal with, that’s only with the retail and then trucks, you have to deal with the bus companies, the haulers, there’s so many things to do. Unlike this [Aston Martin], this is more like, a customer wants it, he’s going to buy it. Give them a reasonable price and they’ll buy it,” he said.
GETTING ASTON MARTIN
According to Tagle, among the things that prompted him to launch Aston Martin in the Philippines was the growing number of sports cars on the roads.
“Actually, the start of our story for Aston was around two years ago, approximately two years ago from the start to the opening of the showroom [at the Bonifacio Global City],” he said.
“I had an idea that it was time to bring in another sports car brand into the Philippines. The reason why, is you just wait upon a weekend, on a Saturday or Sunday, you go around Makati or Manila, you see so many sports cars. In fact, you’ll be shocked sometimes on how many sports cars you see on the road,” Tagle added.
He partnered with the Soong family who has been distributing premium European car brands in the Philippines since the late 1990s starting off with Jaguar.
“It was easy to choose them as a partner, because they have the know-how on how to sell luxury items and then I wanted our group to come in and try out the waters, test out the waters,” Tagle said.
It so happened that Tagle’s grandfather and Wellington Soong undertook a business venture many years back.
“Actually, what Mr. Soong was saying is maybe 30 or 40 years ago around the time, he was already dealing with my grandfather. It was a business that’s now closed down, but they had some dealings before,” Tagle said.
He added that bagging the Aston Martin deal was not easy, citing the experience of Wellington Soong.
“I would quote Mr. Soong: ‘This is the hardest negotiation we had to undergo just to secure a brand.’ He has four brands and he told me he’s never done this in his life. That’s how rigid, how much information they [Aston Martin] were asking from us,” Tagle said.
SUAVE LIKE JAMES BOND
Although the prices of Aston Martin cars are astronomical because it starts from P12 million, Tagle said those who patronize the brand’s sport cars are low-key people who are of course, moneyed. Aston Martin also makes grand tourer or GT cars that can also be used for everyday driving.
“Aston Martin makes GT-sports cars, when I say GT, that’s grand tourers. Grand tourers are cars that could be used on a day-to-day basis. It is not too low to the ground, you won’t hit curbs, it is more of an everyday car that is a little more comfortable than a sports car,” he said.
Aston Martin owners are also more low-key compared to those who would buy Lamborghinis or Ferraris.
“So people who buy Astons don’t want the attention, they just want to enjoy the car, they’re more low-key people,” Tagle said.
When it comes to movie icons who actually do not want attention and are low-key, James Bond, whose choice of car is usually an Aston Martin, usually comes into mind.
“Just like how James Bond is, he’s very suave, very sophisticated, low-key in a sense, until he needs to do something ‘Bondish’” Tagle said with a hearty laugh.
As to why he likes James Bond movies, he said, “Growing up, I mean who would not want James Bond [movies]? First of all, it’s an action film, right? And then there’s beautiful women, beautiful cars. What guy will not like James Bond movies?”
Tagle further said Aston Martin has remained an independent sports car company or one that is not owned or controlled by the “big boys.” He also has very nice words for Aston Martin cars beyond the spec sheet.
“When you drive an Aston, it’s very elegant, it’s beautiful, you can hear it from your own ears, the sound is amazing, the sound of the engine is one of the best sounds of a car in the world,” Tagle added.