WITH so many vehicle brands in the Philippine market today, there are a few whose identities need to be firmly established especially if they are really good products. Among them is Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep.
Imported by the Auto Nation Group Inc. and distributed by CATS Motors Inc., the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep brands will likely see a surge in the Philippines as a result of the reorganization of CATS Motors in 2012 and the new product developments Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has readied for the next five years.
“We had reorganized both the company [and]the responsibilities on the brands. We didn’t have dedicated service and marketing teams for Chrysler Group and Mercedes Benz, because in the past, when we were not so big, it was manageable,” said Robert Shaw, vice president for Sales and Marketing of Auto Nation Group.
“[The year] 2005 was the start of operations as GD, as general distributor and retail. And then in 2012, we had to split the organization [CATS Motors], for one party to handle wholesale, and the other party, retail. Hence the birth of Auto Nation Group and CATS Motors remained as dealer. That allowed us to expand the dealer network,” he added.
Auto Nation Group thus ended up as the company that had contracts with both Daimler AG and Fiat-Chrysler.
“Over the ten years that we have been distributing and retailing both brands, we have now moved from being one organization. Now there are separate showrooms, separate corporate identities [for Mercedes Benz and Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep]. It allowed us to grow, expand our footprint nationwide,” Shaw said.
RECOVERING FROM HICCUPS
Although Chrysler (the company) had been known to be a manufacturer of good cars, it has undergone what Shaw calls “hiccups” before merging with Fiat of Italy to create what is now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Chrysler also merged before with Daimler AG to create the short-lived Daimler Chrysler.
Despite the “hiccups” the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep brands underwent, he said CATS Motors and Auto Nation never lost faith in them. Shaw even said that despite Chrysler having to go through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings to bail it out from its massive debts, the company continued to supply the Philippines with its select vehicles.
“Ironically, when they [Chrysler] had to go through that bail-out, we were still strong, we still maintained the 300 to 400 unit sales per year,” Shaw added.
“Because we are a local company. So if somebody coughs in the US, everybody is in ICU [intensive care unit]already, and then they pack up, they fold up, they leave. We’re a local company, we are not going anywhere else. We are committed to our customers,” he said.
There were times, however, that CATS Motors encountered supply issues when it came to selling Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles.
But now that Chrysler is solvent and has merged with Fiat, Shaw sees a better direction of Fiat Chrysler’s product development. It was on April 2009 that Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.
Fiat Chrysler also held recently a product forum to show to its distributors worldwide long-term plans and new product developments.
“There are long-term plans, there are new products coming. We recently got back from a product forum where they showed about 30 plus models/variants that will be released over the next five years. So there is confidence, there is a long-term plan unlike before where we didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said.
And since Dodge only makes left-hand drive cars and the Philippines is the only left-hand drive vehicle market in Southeast Asia, there is a possibility the iconic Challenger and Charger will hit local shores.
What Shaw wanted, however, is for the other dealers of Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep in the Philippine to have the same level of enthusiasm that he currently has.
“In hindsight, one of the things that I would have wanted to happen for our dealers was to join us in that dealer presentation a few months ago. When we came back, the excitement level was maximum, we wanted to expand the showrooms, we wanted to tell the dealers about it,” he said.
“Because we saw something that we haven’t seen in a long time with Chrysler, we saw a long-term plan, we saw a plan that will last us the next five years,” Shaw added.
The growth in the sales of Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep vehicles will also be fueled by the demand for top-class and luxury vehicles. But Shaw still sees the growth for top-class and luxury vehicles limited by some constraints in the Philippine setting and that the market for expensive cars actually plateaued in the last five years.
“The last five years, the luxury car market has plateaued even if the industry is growing. There are probably some factors to that. The growth [in the vehicle car marker]is mainly driven by the small cars, the cars from new markets like China, India, South Korea to some extent,” he said.
“Last year, it [luxury car sales]almost reached 3,000 mainly because luxury car brands are also introducing a lot of models that are your entry into the brand,” Shaw added.
There are constraints, however, to the growth of top-class and luxury cars in the Philippines like lack of infrastructure for plug-in vehicles and cleaner fuels. Shaw particularly said luxury vehicles that can only run on Euro 6 fuels cannot be introduced in the Philippines because the domestic standard is only Euro 4.
But because of the clear direction in vehicle development and production that Fiat Chrysler has now, and with Auto Nation Group and CATS Motors having separate functions, Shaw sees growth in the Philippines for Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep in the next few years.
“We are also submitting plans for next year and 2017, we are still finalizing the numbers. It looks like there will be a significant growth for Chrysler in 2016 here in the Philippines. This will be mainly driven by Jeep,” he said.
Auto Nation Group is also seeking partners to market Mercedes Benz and Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep. At present, the group has dealers in Cebu City and Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
“Right now we’re looking for possible partners in the North, we are expanding in the South. Right now, we only have Cebu as our dealer in VisMin [Visayas-Mindanao] area,” Shaw said.
Indeed, he is paving the road for the reemergence of the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands in the Philippines.