IN spite of concerns over the looming increase in vehicle excise taxes, growth prospects for the rest of this year are “very good” for both Isuzu Philippines and the industry as a whole, an executive from Isuzu’s operations here said.
Executive Vice President Shojiro Sakoda of Isuzu Philippines Corp. was on hand for the launch of Isuzu’s new mu-X Black Series SUV at Isuzu Cebu City, and said that the choice of location was a significant acknowledgement of Isuzu’s growing market outside Metro Manila.
“Introducing the new Isuzu mu-X Black Series in Cebu is an important move as this signifies Isuzu Philippines’ appreciation for growth markets in the central and southern parts of the country. And Cebu has consistently been among the strongest performers in terms of deliveries of Isuzu products,” Sakoda said.
Cebu and the Visayas market are responsible for about 1,000 vehicle sales a month, he added, about a third of all Isuzu Philippines’ sales.
The Philippine market on the whole has been a dream come true for Isuzu in terms of sales of its flagship mu-X. The Philippines is the biggest market for the mu-X, only introduced here in the fourth quarter of 2014, anywhere it is sold, beating distant second-place in Asia Thailand by about 3,000 units annually.
While not addressing the hot-button vehicle excise tax issue directly, Sakoda seemed unconcerned that the market might suffer this year.
“For this year, we see about 10 percent growth for the industry,” Sakoda explained. Isuzu’s own targets are similar. “Last year, we topped 27,000 units, so our target this year is 30,000, or ten percent higher,” he added. However, with the scale of Isuzu’s sales growth in 2016 – the automaker delivered 27,361 vehicles in the Philippines, a 21.2 percent jump from the 22,581 sold the previous year – Sakoda said 32,000 sales in 2017 “was not out of the question.”
In terms of Isuzu’s footprint in the country, the company is pursuing a long-term expansion plan. “We will open four or five new dealerships this year,” Sakoda said. “We think we need about 50 dealerships in the Philippines.” (There are currently 36)
Asked what Isuzu Philippines had in store for the upcoming Manila International Auto Show (MIAS), the affable Sakoda was coy. “Expect something new,” he said.
Sakoda also pointed out that Isuzu’s Euro 4 engine would soon be made available. “We will be introducing that,” he said. “Of course, it’s required by the new fuel standard, so that is a priority for Isuzu.”