• SMALL WE GO

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    Top Toyota officers (from left) Ariel Arias, Dr. David Go, Michinobu Sugata (also seen at right), Nobohiko Ono and Yohei Murase present the Toyota Wigo in Cebu. Ono, chief designer at mini-car specialist Daihatsu, penned the Wigo.

    Top Toyota officers (from left) Ariel Arias, Dr. David Go, Michinobu Sugata (also seen at right), Nobohiko Ono and Yohei Murase present the Toyota Wigo in Cebu. Ono, chief designer at mini-car specialist Daihatsu, penned the Wigo.

    TOYOTA in the Philippines sells a staggering 18 variants of its Innova (paint options included), seven of its Fortuner, eight of its Vios and seven of its Corolla Altis. That’s 40 variants across four of the country’s best-selling models. And then it counts 14 models more, each with several variants. This diversity pushed the company to finish 2013 with a 42-percent share of the local market with more than 75,000 cars sold.

    But still it has a hole in its product range: Toyota Motor Phils. (TMP) does not have a bet in the mini subcompact segment, presently the mass-market choice. Well, not anymore. Because TMP has filled in this volume-driven niche by recently introducing the Wigo.

    TMP President Michinobu Sugata, obviously aware that the company once lacked such model, at the Wigo’s launch event held in Cebu asked; “Why now? Why launch a new vehicle to Toyota’s already strong lineup? And why a vehicle to a segment that Toyota hasn’t been present in before?

    “Well, we at Toyota believe that the best time is now. Now that more and more Filipinos are becoming more interested in a transportation that gives them ease, convenience and, ultimately, their money’s worth. Toyota decided to come up with a vehicle that will deliver exactly that,” he said.

    By any other name
    The Wigo, a diminutive hatchback, has roots that are traced to mini-car specialist Daihatsu, of which Toyota owns a major chunk. It is sold in some countries as either a Daihatsu Ayla or a Toyota Agya, and is built in Indonesia. If there are concerns regarding so-called badge engineering, there should not be any here as Toyota and Daihatsu actually share tech knowhow. Think Toyota/Subaru link in the 86/BRZ (Toyota also has a stake in Subaru maker Fuji Heavy Industries). It’s similar in the Wigo’s case. The car’s three-cylinder, 65hp, 85Nm 1.0-liter engine, for example, is coded 1KR-FE. That, for anyone versed with the automotive giant’s power plant nomenclature, says pure Toyota.

    What does the Wigo offer? A lot, considering how much it costs; P448,000 for the 1.0 E MT, P499,000 for the 1.0 G MT and P534,000 for the 1.0G AT.

    The two G variants get expensive items like a multi-information display; navigation system-ready multimedia player that connects to iPods, has an auxiliary jack and can display videos on its touch-screen panel; halogen headlamps; remote locking with immobilizer; electric power assist steering; and a pair of airbags in front. Then there are the rudimentary features now expected in modern cars; 14-inch alloys, ABS, third brake lamps mounted in the spoiler, a hatch window wiper, fog lamps, chrome and silvery trim outside and inside the car, the assorted cup holders and storage bins.

    Even the base E variant has body color-painted bumpers, side-view mirrors and door handles (the Gs’ are chromed). The E can easily be identified by its lack of rear spoiler, chrome trim and 13-inch steel wheels.

    TMP offers the car in six color options.

    Wave of the present

    Also at the launch event, TMP Vice President for Vehicle Sales Operations Jose Maria Atienza cited the demand for low-cost hatchbacks in the country has exploded from 5,861 units in 2011 to 15,516 units in 2013—or more than a 200-percent growth. That, according to the TMP official, means that from a 3.6-percent slice of the total industry sales of 165,000 vehicles in 2011, low-cost hatchbacks comprised 7.4 percent of the 208,500 vehicles sold in the country last year.

    Atienza noted that low-cost hatchbacks’ affordable price is the major factor in their recent rise in popularity, which comes amid strong economic growth in the country and the improved spending power of consumers.

    According to Sugata, the Wigo’s local arrival is “completely different and special.”

    “We will take the industry and the market by storm with this model. We have already jump-started the motorization of the Philippines with the Toyota Vios last year, and this time around, with the Wigo,” the TMP chief said.

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