History repeating itself

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From Camaros to Sparks, the Chevrolet Club of the Philippines is one group where you can meet the most interesting people who pay homage to the American brand.

From Camaros to Sparks, the Chevrolet Club of the Philippines is one group where you can meet the most interesting people who pay homage to the American brand.

Chevrolet Club of the Philippines in a resurgence with brand

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Chevrolet Philippines, under the management The Covenant Car Company Inc. (TCCCI), may be quite new compared to more established Asian car brands, but the Chevrolet name is one that is deeply entrenched in Philippine motoring culture.

As Fast Times wrote in a supplement, General Motors or GM (the parent company of Chevrolet) was one of the dominant car brands in the Philippines after World War II, to the point that it was even manufacturing cars locally before its plant shut down in the mid-1980s because of the political unrest that culminated in the People Power Revolution in 1986. Although GM returned to the Philippine market in the 1990s with Opel models like the Astra, Tigra, Vectra, Omega and Zafira, the Chevrolet marque only came back into the market near the 2000s with the likes of the Cassia and, later, the first-generation Spark and Optra.

In 2009, Chevrolet Philippines had a massive overhaul when TCCCI came into the picture. Since then, the company has been gaining traction with best-sellers like the Trailblazer, Colorado and Spark. But for the Chevrolet Club of the Philippines Inc., the launch of the Cruze really changed what people thought of the brand.

“In 2010, I was looking for a sedan and I was choosing among the Toyota Corolla Altis, the Honda Civic and the Chevrolet Cruze,” said club founder and former president Anthony Rozano. “The Cruze really stood out. It was like a BMW. And it had the best safety rating among compact cars at the time.”

club120160802From Cruze to all Chevys
In fact, Rozano said prior to the club becoming a brand-wide group, it had started out as a club for Cruze owners.

“The Cruze group was officially formed in December 2010 and was composed of 12 members,” he said. “At the time, the Cruze was Chevrolet’s flagship model when TCCCI was orchestrating the brand’s comeback.”

Rozano said the group expanded in 2011 to include all Chevrolet models upon the request of TCCCI, which had brought out additional models like the second-generation Spark that year. Former president Joseph Ulep said the club now has 189 official members and around 10,000 unofficial members spread across all the club’s 10 model subgroups. He said unofficial members include ‘lurkers’ and potential buyers who visit the club’s pages to know more about Chevrolet vehicles.

Like no other
Ulep, who owns a Cruze, said Chevrolet has a growing following because its models look and feel more like European cars. Meanwhile, former president Cookie Cortez said she bought a Spark not only because of the excellent fuel economy, but also because of its unusual appearance.

“What I look for in a car is something that you don’t see on the road every day,” she said. “So when we have a convoy of Sparks, people would say, ‘Uy, Transformers!’ It’s very cute and pleasing to the eyes.”

The club first started off as a group for Cruze owners.

The club first started off as a group for Cruze owners.

Speaking of Transformers, Ulep said the appearance of Chevrolet vehicles (like the Sonic hatchback and the iconic yellow Camaro that plays Bumblebee) in the box-office-hit movie adaptations of the popular Japanese toy line has helped greatly to boost sales of Chevrolets locally. In addition to the much-improved model line-up and marketing, Rozano said the brand’s success today is down to better management by TCCCI, while Cortez and Ulep said Chevrolet’s after-sales support is much better than it used to be.

3 EBs in a year, discounted servicing
Cortez said becoming an unofficial member is as easy as sending a request to the club’s Facebook fan page. “Once we get the request, we send the applicant a standard reply that includes a link to the appropriate subgroup,” she said.

To become an official member, however, Cortez said you must attend at least three eyeballs (EBs) in a year, pay the P1,500 membership fee and send a picture of yourself with your Chevrolet (which doesn’t need to be registered to you). However, she said the club gives special consideration to overseas Filipino workers, seamen and applicants from Visayas and Mindanao by waiving the EB attendance requirement.

Cortez and Rozano said aside from getting club merchandise, official members get discounts at certain Chevrolet dealerships and partner companies. “We can also help forward concerns directly to TCCCI,” Cortez said.

Ulep said another perk of being a member is the friendship and camaraderie among fellow club members. “For instance, as a doctor, I tend to charge less to club members than to other patients,” he said.

Gift-giving program, JSK Fun Run
Rozano, Cortez and Ulep said the club often does outreach programs, such as feeding programs and medical missions, together with the typical club events and car shows. “We try to have a monthly gathering and try to reach all our members in the country through our fun drives,” Cortez said.

For this year, Ulep said the club plans to hold a gift-giving program in August to a charitable foundation, as well as an outreach program in December. But Ulep and Cortez said one of the club’s biggest events for this year is the annual JSK Fun Run in November, which many car clubs all across the country participate in.

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