We are on a roll!
MOTORING TODAY - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - December 29, 2015 - 9:00am

Without any question the local auto industry has a banner year in 2015. What with car launches, test drives and other industry activities happening without let up month after month. And we are reprising these events if only to show how busy the industry was as it soured to heights never before reached in its history. As we do not have the luxury of space we have randomly picked this week some of the significant events of the major players and perhaps touch on the others should there be an occasion for a second part of this article. To wit;

Toyota launched what’s considered the best-selling executive sedan in the Philippines, the Camry sometime in March. The 2015 model now features Toyota’s signature “keen look” design that lends a sportier, bolder shape. What’s more, the G, V, and Q variants are now joined by a sportier S variant with a monotone black interior with red stitching, three-spoke steering wheel, sport pedals, and paddle shifters.

In July, the all-new Hilux made its much-awaited Philippine debut at the Fontana Convention Center in Clark, Pampanga. The next morning, everyone was given the chance to test-drive the new-generation Hilux in a series of activities highlighting its smaller but more powerful engine.

Two months after in September, the Avanza, considered as the best-selling compact MPV in the country has received a fresh update for 2015 to keep it in touch with its recently launched competitors. Since its introduction to the Philippine market in 2006, the Avanza has already sold more than 50,000 units. And now, with this new revamp, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) is confident that it’ll remain the preferred choice in its segment.

A month after TMP presented an updated version of their flagship SUV the Land Cruiser 200. Reworked extensively from tip to stern, the 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser 200, among others features an entirely new front-end design.

Already the country’s undisputed number one car maker for 2015, TMP is showing no signs of slowing down as it officially unveiled the upgraded 2016 RAV4 crossover during its annual Christmas lunch for the media.

At the same luncheon, TMP president, Michinobu Sugata also announced that he’s leaving for a new assignment outside the Philippines. He has served as TMP’s president for six years.

Meanwhile, Toyota’s premium marque, Lexus launched one of the best-selling vehicles in the Lexus-Manila line-up, the ES. Taking the ES to the next level in elegance and luxury, the 2016 ES now adds more of what Lexus has to offer. In fact, the Japanese luxury marque is confident that it will be the best-in-class.

In another front, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMPC), the second-ranked industry player in the country opened the year with a move to its new manufacturing plant located in a 21-hectare facility in Greenfield Automotive Park in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Right after in March it officially pulled the curtains off the all-new 2015 Strada. The fifth-generation model in Mitsubishi’s storied pickup truck history, the all-new Strada takes the concept of “sport utility truck” to the next level as it aims to become the top choice among pickup buyers in the country. With the pickup truck’s increasingly multifunction role as family transport, lifestyle vehicle, and business companion, the Strada is amply powered by either a 136-horsepower or 178-horsepower motor. It also gets a full suite of safety gear headlined by dual SRS airbags and the RISE body structure.

Another Japanese automaker that’s on an upswing is Isuzu. In February, Isuzu launched the 2015 Crosswind, upgrading it with new features that make the everyday drive more special. The 2015 update also introduces a new logo on the Crosswind along with a new marketing tagline, “Makes Your Everyday”.

This was followed in October by the dual launch of the Isuzu D-Max and mu-X are adding a new adjective to their name: powerful. In response to public clamor for a bigger engine, Isuzu Philippines Corporation (IPC) has finally introduced new variants of its well-received D-Max and mu-X fitted with a 3.0-liter VGS Turbo engine.

A week before its official launch in the Philippines, Isuzu invited members of press to try out these powerful new models for themselves at Isuzu’s proving grounds in Thailand.

Meanwhile, American car maker Ford kicked off the arrival of the all-new Mustang in April in style. The 5.0-liter V8 with 435 horsepower is as pure Americana as you can get while the new 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 314 horsepower tickles the fancy of tuners.

In May, Ford Philippines finally revealed the much-awaited all-new Everest at a special dynamic launch in Ford Alabang. After a lengthy preview from its global launch in Beijing to its regional launch in Thailand, the all-new Everest presents itself as an impressive package with a tough and rugged chassis attached to a muscularly sculpted body.

The Megatent in Libis was the venue where Ford Philippines launched in November the New Focus with the Ecoboost 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine, which offers 180 horsepower power and 240 Nm of torque.

The new Focus also features a revised look with new technology such as SYNC 2 voice command as well as an enhanced version of the park assist system.

Meanwhile, premium brand BMW breaks away from its comfort zone by introducing design elements to the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer that reflect the German ingenuity more than ever. While the vehicle embodies the form and function of a MPV, it embraces classic BMW design cues and uniquely wears the identity of the BMW 2 Series model range to match the family who wants to take life further.

Under the hood, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer includes a specially-designed front-wheel drive system, a first for BMW. The drive train layout improves space without compromising power delivery especially the much revered BMW driving dynamics. The luxury MPV also runs with a lightweight 3-cylinder petrol engine with BMW’s award-winning TwinPower Turbo technology, which promotes a fuel-efficient yet equally exciting drive while exploring the great outdoors.

Sometime in August, HARI or Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. declared that “Summer isn’t over” as it held the regional launch of the all-new Tucson with a drive from Roxas City to Boracay.

Highlighting the design and finesse of the new Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design, the ride-and-drive featured a photo contest that captures the beauty and toughness of the Tucson.

As the convoy made their way through different picturesque destinations, the Tucson performed very well providing its one comfortable, agile, and much improved compact crossover.

By the end of the year in December after its global unveil at the brand’s Namyang R&D Center months earlier, Hyundai has previewed the all-new sixth-generation Elantra at the annual Christmas party for dealers, suppliers, and the media. Aiming to recapture market share and regain momentum for the Korean brand, the 2016 Elantra offers a sleeker, more dynamic appearance together with a slew of distinguished performance features.

Let the huge people carriers rule, but Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI) maintains that there’s no better ride to take to undiscovered destinations but the all-new Odyssey. Unlike the 2012 model, which is built for the North American market, the latest Odyssey is actually the JDM or Japanese Domestic Model.

The 2015 Odyssey is also aiming to be the most fuel-efficient premium MPV in the market. To achieve this, Honda enlists the help of its all-new 2.4-liter DOHC i-VTEC engine. This 175 horsepower, 225 Nm engine is mated to the company’s Earth Dreams CVT transmission. And this does not mention all the comfort features the all-new Odyssey offers.

In April, HCPI launched its first-ever Multi-purpose Utility Vehicle or MUV, the Mobilio expanding the Japanese brand’s line-up to now include a truly affordable 7-seater vehicle despite its compact size with a 120-horsepower engine.

The Honda’s all-new HR-V came to local shores in June. With bold and sporty coupe-like styling, SUV versatility, and Honda’s packaging magic, the all-new HR-V is set to challenge the growing small crossover segment.

In October, Honda unveiled their flagship sedan model, the Legend featuring state-of-the-art technology. The large luxury sedan is powered by a 3.5-liter Earth Dreams V6 engine supplemented by twin in-board electric motors at the back. All in all, it delivers 380 horsepower. It’s kept in check thanks to Super Handling All-Wheel Drive or SH-AWD.

The Legend also debuts an advanced driver assistive technology called Honda SENSING. Using cutting-edge sensing technologies, the high-tech system is said to aid the driver to prevent or effectively respond to dangerous driving situations.

Then, Volkswagen launches its first salvo of the year in February with the launch of the Polo Hatchback that aims to be “your first German car”. It’s the same affordable yet well-designed and well-engineered concept with a sportier body style. In addition, the Polo offers a gasoline engine linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Still in February, the Philippines finally got a good taste of the coveted European hot hatch flavor with the official arrival of the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Performance is punctuated by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 220 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque. This engine is mated exclusively to a 6-speed dual clutch automatic.

In September, the motoring media trooped to the VW showroom for the launch of the Passat. Coming straight from Germany, performance of the VW Passat is provided by a 2.0-liter turbocharged motor shared with the Golf GTI maxing out at 220 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque. It also comes with a Driving Profile Selector also from the Golf.

Going back to the Korean front, Kia launched the all-new Sorento and Grand Carnival in April bolstering the brand’s presence in the country giving them a more premium positioning than ever before.

Both wear Kia’s new brand identity featuring the trademark Tiger Nose grille. Inside, both carry the theme of “modern and wide” with heavy aeronautic inspiration. The Sorento and Grand Carnival also share the same 2.2-liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine with 200 horsepower and 431 Nm of torque.

In June, Kia introduced the all-new Forte compact car featuring three exciting body styles to suit every taste and need.The capable and comfortable Kia Forte 4-door is powered by a 1.6-liter engine. It’s a commendable choice for Filipino families who want space without sacrificing style or performance.

Nissan Philippines, Inc. or NPI introduced its newest product offering: the NV350 Urvan. This 5th-generation Urvan is now powered by a 2.5-liter engine based on the same engine. Aside from being more powerful and refined than its predecessor, the NV350 Urvan boasts of seating configurations up to 18 seats.

In October just in time with its new brand campaign, “Rediscover Excitement” as well as its second anniversary as part of the global Nissan family, NPI brings to market the Juke sports sub-compact crossover.

Penned with the ROBIOTIC design concept, it takes the mechanical (ROBO) and living body (BIO) to produce a muscular and agile exterior and an interior that combines mechanical precision with dynamic movement.

In December enter the Patrol Royale, which packs a 5.6-liter V8 engine with 371 horsepower and 526 Nm of torque mated to a 5-speed automatic with manual shift mode and cruise control.

The reinvigorated Peugeot is entering a new market segment with the Peugeot 2008 launched in July. The first Peugeot to be designed with the global market squarely in mind, the 2008 is meant to satisfy the needs and wants of a vast array of customers around the world, some of whom are newcomers to the French brand. Integrating agility and dynamism, the Peugeot 2008 draws from the company’s dual expertise of design and engineering.

Mazda on the other hand expanded its vehicle line with the introduction of the Mazda6 Sports Wagon. Aside from the unique body style, you get the same Adaptive LED headlights, i-ACTIVSENSE, and the 11-speaker Bose sound system. It’s also powered by the same 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine with a 6-speed automatic.

Mahindra, India’s leading SUV manufacturer makes its comeback into the Philippines under the exclusive distributorship of Asiabrands Motors Corporation, a new company under the Columbian Group of Companies which also distributes brands such as Kia, BMW, and Peugeot. Although Mahindra was in the Philippine market in the 1990’s, it’s only now that they’ll get a large corporate backer ensuring proper and reliable customer support.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars opened its newest showroom in the Asia-Pacific region right in the heart of Bonifacio Global City.

Commemorating this event, the 323-square meter showroom also played host to the launch of the brand’s newest offering: the Ghost Series II.

Auto Nation Group, Inc., the exclusive distributor and importer of Chrysler vehicles has recently launched the 2015 300C, which is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that delivers 290 horsepower and 340 Nm of torque. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Auto Nation Group, Inc., the official distributor of Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the country also unveiled the 2015 family of SUVs including its new model naming scheme.

Starting off with the daddy, the flagship G-Class remains as the flagship model. Joining the G-Class is the new compact GLC-Class. The GLC replaces the GLK and features underpinnings shared with the C-Class compact sedan. Finally, the GLE Coupe, first seen in the movie Jurassic World makes its Philippine debut.

Audi Philippines is capping off 2015 by unveiling the ‘great quattro’—the all-new Q7 flagship SUV. Marking the second-generation model in this award-winning line, the all-new Q7 boasts of the corporate tagline of “Vorsprung Durch Technik” (Advancement Through Technology), the all-new Q7 boasts of a substantial weight loss without sacrificing safety and integrity.

2015 by all standards is indeed a banner year for the local automotive industry, achieving all-time high sales records never before recorded in its history.

And the industry is more upbeat and optimistic in 2016.

Happy Motoring and a Happy New Year to all!!!

Contact: sunshine.television@yahoo.com / motoringtoday-star@stv.com.ph

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