BMW Philippines president Maricar Cristobal-Parco on the German carmaker’s motoring future
You’re a product of the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication, so we’re pretty sure a career in the automotive industry wasn’t what you had planned for yourself. What did you originally want to be?
I thought I’d be a dentist like my parents. But after a year of pre-dentistry in UP Manila, I realized it wasn’t really what I wanted. So I shifted to Communication Arts. The plan then was to get into advertising.
So how did you end up working for Honda Cars Philippines?
Luckily, Honda Cars Philippines was starting up its operations the year I graduated. They had an ad in the papers for a marketing assistant. I sent my résumé and went for the interviews. So only a month after graduation, I started my life in the auto industry.
Of all the current presidents of car companies in the Philippine auto industry today, we’d say you have had the most fascinating journey in our eyes because we literally witnessed you climb the ladder from being a rank-and-file marketing staffer to now being the head of the leading luxury car brand in the country. Describe this journey.
It has certainly been quite a ride. While I felt like I stumbled into the auto industry right after college, I have now been in this industry for over two decades. That goes to show how much I’m enjoying it. There’s never a dull moment here. There’s always something new—in product design, technologies and the most interesting people to meet.
In spite of the countless successes of female executives in the corporate world, the auto industry somehow still continues to be perceived as a man’s territory. What are the most difficult challenges involved in being a woman in this domain?
I believe that no matter the gender, we are faced with similar challenges. We just have different ways of addressing them. More often, though, women have to work much harder to get recognized. But in general, I think that the auto industry has been quite open and given female leaders like me the regard that we deserve. It has also become so diverse that in the past years, men and women have effectively collaborated to prove that gender is a non-issue.
For those who don’t know you, let us point out that you have been around quite a bit—from a Japanese carmaker (Honda) to an American company (Ford) and then to a German brand. Those are really solid automotive brands. Do you consider yourself particularly fortunate to have honed your managerial skills in these firms? What did each of these three brands teach you?
Definitely. I was very fortunate to have started at Honda and learned the value of working as efficiently as possible, at the onset of my career. The auto industry is fast-paced, and being able to do quality work in the least possible time is very important.
My stint at Ford honed me to be the best that I could be as I worked with high-caliber people. It also gave me a global perspective on the industry. But it also allowed me to understand that while we are all putting in our best efforts to make every project a success, it’s also important to have fun with what you do and grow with people who are not only about getting the job done but are also passionate about sharing exciting insights.
And what has working at BMW taught you?
I must say that German ingenuity and a clear-cut approach to business are BMW values that have also helped me manage every task I encounter at work and in life.
A lot of people also don’t know that you were part of the original team that established Ford Philippines in the American company’s return to our market. And they’re doing really well now. Do you still feel a special connection when you look at them now, or were they just a necessary detour to get to where you are now?
I’m very happy for Ford. Not only for the company’s success but even more for the team behind it. I’m particularly happy to see friends who have grown with the company and are enjoying their success. My Ford years will always be special.
Let’s talk about BMW. In a cutthroat luxury segment, where some companies are rumored to even flout the law to gain an upper hand, how do you manage to stay number one sales-wise even after more than a decade of being on top?
BMW is setting the standards and pace in the luxury segment. We do it not only by bringing globally successful automobiles closer to Filipino customers, but by truly understanding what they need. The market is always changing so identifying trends and drawing the opportunities from them should be key to continued success.
What is the most exciting BMW car can we look forward to seeing on our roads soon?
The next decade will be very exciting for the auto industry as we see the trend toward semi- and full-autonomous driving. Today, we already have features in our cars that allow hands-free driving and parking. Our cars are also equipped with more and more cameras and sensors that assist drivers in a way we’ve not seen in over 100 years of the automobile’s existence.
Aside from that, BMW is also keen on leading the industry toward sustainable mobility with the BMW ‘i’ sub-brand. As you know, we recently showcased the BMW i8 at this year’s Philippine International Motor Show. The preview was meant not only to show how the BMW brand had progressed in the past century, but to also give the market a sneak peek at the exciting times ahead. So the market can look forward to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles from BMW sometime in the future.
Apart from being president of BMW in the Philippines, you are also a devoted mother and wife. Any helpful tips for all the working moms out there?
We all know that it’s not easy to balance our different roles as a wife, a mother, a mentor and a company head. But it’s okay to ask for help. I’m lucky that I have people around me that provide a lot of support—my mom, my sisters and my friends. Also, remember to allow yourself some well-deserved me-time. This will allow yourself to feel better and be recharged and more energized to fulfill your different roles.