Who says the Philippine motoring market is too small for the automotive bigwigs in Japan to notice?
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. executive vice president and chief planning officer Mitsuhiko Yamashita certainly doesn’t think so.
During the Oct. 24 media night, a day before the press opening of the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show at the Tokyo Big Sight, Yamashita used big words for the country. “The Philippine population is large, the country has abundant resources, and the people speak English very well. This is really encouraging (for automobile companies). The country has a lot of potential.”
Yamashita’s pronouncement is icing on the cake. Apart from record-setting sales in vehicle units, the local automotive industry has grown in the variety of automobiles being offered to the public—from entry level subcompacts to super cars, from sedans and hatches to SUVs and big vans.
And then there’s Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp.’s multibillion-peso automobile assembly in Santa Rosa City, Laguna province, which could probably be the biggest proof from any automaker, of its confidence in the country’s capability for further growth in the sector.
Integrated in that plant is the P2-billion press stamping facility, a crucial part of MMPC’s P4.3-billion committed investment under the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program.
The press stamping facility would be producing the large body shells for the Mirage hatchback and sedan, the model enrolled under the CARS program.
The facility has a capacity of producing 30,000 units per shift, and will be fully operational by January 2018. It will enable the car assembler to meet its production target of 30,000 units of the Mirage.
MMPC president and chief executive officer Mutsuhiro Oshikiri is confident that this production output will grow. “The Philippines’ population is 100 million, so the country’s manufacturing facility (will be able to cope with) more volumes for the Mirage.”
He added: “With the Philippines’ market growth, we can provide more support for the manufacturing plant.”
Oshikiri also anticipates the entry of the Xpander to be a game changer for Mitsubishi in the Philippines.
“The biggest impact of our business in the Philippines would be the Xpander. It’s the most anticipated SUV/MPV here,” Oshikiri said.
“We need the Xpander here because we are phasing out the Adventure and the L300. With the production of Mirage, and then the importation of the Xpander, those two will be our biggest opportunities,” he added.
The Xpander—which is seen to go head-to-head with the Suzuki Ertiga, Toyota Avanza, and Honda Mobilio—was unveiled at the Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show just this August.
It already has an order backlog of up to 25,000 units in Indonesia. A definite date is yet to be set for its introduction in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Xpander, designed for families looking for comfortable cabins, versatile seating arrangements, and high ground clearances in their MPVs, combines the utility of an MPV and the toughness and dynamism of an SUV.
Along with the Eclipse Cross, the Xpander is set to introduce MMC’s fresh, new look for the SUV coupe and SUV/MPV crossover targetting customers’ mindsets in mature and emerging markets.
Both are the embodiment of MMC’s new global tagline, “Drive your ambition,” which was also revealed at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.