MANY years back he was among the high-profiled people in the business of dressing up vehicles with body kits and even won for 12 straight years awards from the annual Transport Show, one of the pioneering motoring events in the country.
But somewhere along the way, Victor “Atoy” Lim Llave decided to give his younger brother 50 percent of his interest in the body kits segment to explore new business opportunities still related to automotive. He has not looked back since and has no regrets.
Llave said that after 12 years in the business of making quality body kits, he became familiar with the ins and outs of the business that it would be hard to dupe him even if things were turned upside down.
“I reached a point where I wanted to move on. The passion I had for body kits before when I dreamed at night [of a design]and when I think of something [related to body kits], I put it on a sheet of paper, that was gone. My passion for body kits was gone,” he added.
“My passion went to creating something. As we age, our vision changes. I am still in the line of automotive, I haven’t left that. If I leave automotive, I would become a nobody. So I thought, ‘how would my business evolve?’” Llave said.
Today, he is concentrating his efforts on customizing trucks for corporate use and customizing vans for the well-heeled also under Omaka Inc. where he is the president and chief executive officer.
“In 2012, I evolved into corporate, it’s a mix like SC Johnson, PLDT, Nestle Philippines and others. We do unique customization [of trucks]for corporations,” Llave said.
He explained that what major corporations do is request him to develop trucks that have special applications for marketing. Good examples are the mobile bar for Tanduay and the mobile food truck of Goldilocks.
“I literally focus on trucks. For example, one of the things we do is a motor home set-up, we also do mobile office, mobile dental clinic, computer truck for the city government, we also do mobile bedrooms for Uratex, mobile bar for Tanduay. We do unique customization like for Red Bull,” Llave said.
“Anything you can put on mobile, we create it, that is our line for corporate. We also do rentals. As of now, we have about 20-plus trucks fleet that is ready for rentals,” he added.
While there are major companies that commission Llave to design trucks for their marketing needs, he said many prefer to rent from him because this is more financially sound.
“For example, there are companies that need our truck for three days. It’s not practical for them to build a new one,” he said.
The rental for customized trucks for use by major companies is from P10,500 to P23,000 per day depending on the customization of the truck on the outside and inside. On the other hand, building a customized truck can cost up to P2 million including the cost of the truck and the customization to be done.
Among the customized trucks that Llave also builds are food vans that chefs can use to showcase their skills. He said imported food vans can cost up to $150,000, which is very expensive compared to the ones he can build locally.
Besides cost efficiency, according to Llave, the customized trucks he builds for corporate clients use innovative materials like composite panels. On the other hand, builders of delivery trucks use aluminum panels.
He said a type of composite material he uses is aluminum sheet with plastic-rubber layer that serves as a heat protecting and absorbing material. Surprisingly, that material is used in buildings and expensive homes.
“I was the first one to use that material [composite panels]on a truck. Now, the other truck builders are following [what I did],” Llave added.
He narrated that a customized truck he made for GMA7 surprised the people who had it built because it did not use aluminum panels. Llave, however, was able to convince GMA7 that using composite panels was a better choice because it is sturdy and can protect what is inside the truck from heat.
“A simple aluminum panel can be punctured by a screw driver,” he said.
Besides the use of innovative materials, Llave also developed designs for the customized vans for major corporations and has four patents to his name.
“In this sector, I am the first and I have four patents,” he said.
VENTURE INTO MOTOR HOMES
While it looks like Llave is very preoccupied with the trucks he is creating and customizing for major corporations, he has an equal passion for creating motor homes and customized vans and can even claim to be the pioneer in the country (though he is yet to make that claim).
In fact, he has been doing motor homes and customized vans for five years or longer than creating customized trucks for major corporations.
He said the customized vans and motor homes he builds can surpass the quality of imported units that come into the country completely built up. His designs also cost less.
For example, the asking price for a motor home built on the Ford E150 full-sized van is about P5.3 million but Llave can customize any E150 for about P650,000 complete with bubble top to give its passengers more headroom.
Also, he can customize a bare unit of the recently introduced Nissan Urvan NV350 for about P500,000. The Urvan NV350 costs about P1.1 million while a van customized by a dealer can cost about P2.4 million.
“Would you spend more than P500,000 for Atoy to customize that [Nissan Urvan]. Assuming, yes, you spend about P1.7 million and you have some change compared to buying [a built-up customized van from dealers]P2.4 million,” Llave said.
The P500,000 includes a bubble top and four captain chairs that have arm rests and can be adjusted like airline seats.
Llave said the target market for customized vans or motor homes are primarily celebrities and businessmen. Among the celebrities for whom he made customized vans or motor homes were Manny Pacquiao, Kim Chiu, Gerald Anderson, Coco Martin, Julia Barreto, Julia Montes, Iya Villania, Lorna Tolentino, Sylvia Sanchez and ZsaZsa Padilla, among others.
Some businessmen are also finding customized vans and motor homes better than luxury SUVs.
“For example, your office is in Laguna and your home is in Manila. Everytime you go to Laguna there is traffic. No. 1 if you are in a traffic and riding in a luxury SUV, you cannot stretch or stand up. If you have the customized van, you can stand up and even walk inside the van. Then you go to your factory and you can work inside your van too,” he said.
Llave added that his motor home and customized van business is on the right track because it is now the trend in the United States to customize vans to give their riders a feel that they are inside a passenger or luxury jet.
And he can also create vans that have a toilet and with chairs that can fold to create a bed.
“When you say Mobile CR [comfort room]it is usually a portalet. What we can create is a mobile toilet that can be used as a dressing room and holding van,” Llave said.
ASSURING QUALITY CREATIONS
To make sure his clients are assured of quality customizations, Llave does his own research and development to make sure his creations surpass those created abroad.
In designing the customization for the E150, Llave bought one completed unit from the United States and took it apart. What he discovered surprised him.
“Before I started, we bought a [E150] Mark 3 and I took it apart. Universal bubble top is made of fiberglass, there is no other material. You know how they install the bubble top compared how we install the bubble top? It’s totally different. If you would see it, you would ask if that was made in the United States,” he said, adding that he discovered cheap wood was used in the installation of the bubble top of the customized E150 instead of reinforced wood and other materials.
Llave said he wanted to focus on quality because it is still common for Filipino consumers to criticize anything made in the Philippines as having poor quality.
Because of his passion to provide quality creations for his clients, there are numerous occasions when the clients themselves, especially celebrities, want to talk with him personally on how to customize their vans.
“It’s because my business is my passion, the money that comes in, I am not focused on that as long as I feel I am creating something. Motor home is one of my bread and butter. And for trucks, I would say I am earning in this area. It’s not that big, but I am happy with the formula God gave me,” he said.