HE may be more popular today among motoring writers as the man behind Segway Personal Transporters (PTs) alongside Jorge Apacible. But Wilson Lei, one of the top officials of family-owned Broadway Holdings Inc., has been in the business of vehicles for many years now.
Lei is actively involved in the management of Nissan and Suzuki distributorships. Hino was recently added to the company’s list of brands distributed. All told, Lei is among the few businessmen in the country involved in the distribution of two-wheelers (in Segway), four-wheelers (in Nissan and Suzuki) and six-wheelers (in Hino).
When it comes to distributing Nissan vehicles, Lei said the brand’s dealership located in United Nations Avenue, Manila, happens to be the oldest for the brand in the Philippines.
“So far, it’s actually the oldest dealer of Nissan in the Philippines. It was established in 1968,” he said, adding that the dealership first sold Mercedes Benz cars then Mitsubishi vehicles before selling Nissan vehicles.
When the Nissan brand started faltering worldwide and in the Philippines prior to the Carlos Ghosn era, Lei said his family decided to stick it out with the brand because of the closeness of his family to the family of Richard Lee that owns Universal Motors Corporation, which is behind the sport utility vehicles and pick-ups of the brand.
Also, Lei said Broadway Holdings decided to keep the Nissan under its wings because the family’s patriarch, Leoncio, stayed true to the brand until the day he passed way in the 1990s.
“It [Nissan brand] had a sentimental value, so we had to continue the legacy of my father,” he added.
The forming of Nissan Philippines Inc. (NPI) was also a blessing to the brand’s dealership network because it united the efforts of the brand’s two companies in the Philippines. Besides UMC of the Lee family, the other company involved in Nissan vehicles in the country is Nissan Motor Philippines Inc.
“Definitely, this [NPI] is the only way to do it,” Lei said, adding that at present, Nissan has an impressive research and development program and has many variants to offer from its line-up.
However, it may no longer be wise to just rely on one brand if a company is into vehicle distribution, which is the reason why some companies now have at least two brands under their wings.
So in 2012, Broadway Holdings added Suzuki vehicles to its portfolio and with good reason.
Lei said the Suzuki offers vehicles that do not directly compete with Nissan, because Suzuki specializes in small vehicles. He added that some companies in the vehicle distribution business even have European and American brands.
The primary reason, however, Broadway Holdings decided to distribute Suzuki vehicles is Manila’s small and crowded street network.
“Small streets need small cars. Delivery vans have to small like the [Suzuki] APV. And if there are floods, go for the Jimny [subcompact SUV],” Lei said.
He added that Suzuki, because it is into small vehicles, understands more of the Philippine market, and that the president of Suzuki Philippines Inc., Hiroshi Suzuki, interacts very well with dealers.
Today, Broadway Holdings has two Suzuki dealerships in Manila: UN Avenue and Binondo. “We were allowed to open our Chinatown branch recently,” he said, adding that Chinatown’s street network is small and narrow that makes it ideal for individuals and families there to own small vehicles.
Lei agreed that if his company took another mainstream brand like Toyota under its wings, that would present conflicts in the marketing of Nissan vehicles. So Suzuki was the most logical choice under the multi-brand strategy of Broadway Holdings, which is now 47 years old.
Another vehicle brand was recently added to the portfolio of Broadway Holdings: Hino.
“The showroom [for Hino]is still under design, but we were already awarded it [distribution]. Hopefully, we can launch it by the end of the year,” he said. The Hino showroom will be located near the Nissan UN Avenue dealership.
Lei said that besides seeing an opportunity in the light truck market segment, there is also an opportunity to supply prime movers or six-wheeler trucks to freight forwarding companies operating in the Port Area of Manila.
“There’s always an opportunity for light trucks and we are near the Port Area [in Manila],” Lei said.
In 2012, Lei along with Apacible introduced Segway Personal Transporters (PTs) to the country through Simply Moving Philippines Inc.
Broadway Holdings and Lei have other businesses like the recycling of plastic specific to the needs of the banana industry in Davao City and supplying of machines for the fabrication of plastic products.
However, Lei said vehicles still form the core business of his family.
From marketing two-wheel electric vehicles from Segway to six-wheelers from Hino, there is no doubt Lei will continue making waves in the local vehicle industry.