From left: The Mini Clubman, Vespa Primavera Yacht Club, and Nissan Juke are some of the brands and models that became popular in the country in the 2010s. Photo from their official websites
Drive Cars and Bikes

Unprecedented choice defined motoring in the 2010s—but are we better off for it?

Everything from luxury to low-cost flooded the local market in the last decade. But, with worsening traffic and fossil fuel dependence, is that necessarily a good thing? 
Jeeves de Veyra | Dec 19 2019

December is the last month in the tumultuous 2010s, a decade that saw the rise of new political heroes and villains, a changing of the guard in different sectors of society, the growing concern for climate change taking a more desperate turn, and an unending cacophony of opinionated people screaming into the Facebook void. In “The Last 10 Years,” a series of pieces scattered over these last 30 days, we look back at what happened to try to figure out what comes next. 

 

One of my favorite things to do on a lazy Sunday morning is to ride a bike around BGC. The highlight of the ride is ogling at the marvelous pieces of motoring art parked around Burgos Circle. While there were still classic cars like the classic whale fin Porsche 911s and the Karmann Ghias, there was a noticeable increase of latest model European Exotics, American Muscle, and Japanese Tuners fresh off the dealer’s floor.

If there was one word to sum up local motoring in the 2010s, I think that word would be choice. In the 2000s, foreign brands, particularly higher end European ones started coming into the market seemingly to test the waters... And the water was fine!

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In the past 10 years, more dealers and more brands dove head first into the Philippine car market with a big splash. Showrooms in EDSA, Pasong Tamo, Libis, and upstart location BGC, teemed with grander and glitzier with more makes and models added to the catalog.

The Toyota Prius is one of the models that helped usher in eco-friendly cars. Photo from the official website

Suddenly, there were brands that I never thought would ever have Philippine distributors open their doors to their affluent clients: Bentley, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari. And now, even ultra-exotic Pagani has a dealer selling Huayras. Here in the Philippines.

Yes, there is a high cost to buying these supercars through legitimate dealers and distributors. But its sure beats “acquiring” these from the gray market as official distributors have trained mechanics and stores of official parts to make sure these big-ticket motors running.

For local car buffs on a budget, seeing these motoring works of art more often in the flesh/metal was excitement enough whether they’re out zooming on the Skyway on a weekend morning, parked in Rockwell while the owners have their coffee, or in the aforementioned meet-ups in Burgos Circle.

 

Wide selection

The streets have become more vibrant than ever with cars of different makes, models, shapes, sizes, and colors. What I see on the road is the Philippine motoring decade in a nutshell.

I see a lot of Ford Mustangs and Bumblebee like Yellow-and-Black Racing Striped Camaros with their turbo-charged wondering how awesome they’d be on SCTEX, SLEX and NLEX on a traffic-less day. I don’t see much of the sedans from these carmakers, but I think they really found a niche market with their owners stepping on the gas and letting the rest of us hear the rumble of their supercharged V6 and V8 engines.

I see a lot of Japanese pocket rockets. These small low-slung two-seaters are a joy to ride in as a driver or a passenger.  The Toyota 86, its sibling the Subaru BRZ, and new Miata MX-5, some with their top down, are the perfect cars to go up Tagaytay Ridge, to go up Kennon Road, or to travel through the Aurora zigzags to Baler. On the premium side, I see many GT-Rs, now sans the Nissan badge prowling the roads.

I see a lot Sport Utility Vehicles, these being synonymous with the family car because of its size and cargo space. Every other car seemed to be a Toyota Fortuner, a Mitsubishi Montero or a Hyundai Tucson.

Luxury sports cars like Lamborghini gained traction locally. Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

I see a lot BMW X-Series, with a surprising amount of Porsche Macans and Cayennes proving that the appeal of the Sport Utility Vehicles extends to the luxury market.

I see a lot more motorcycles and scooters zipping in and around traffic. Scooters have become the transportation of choice to get from point A to point B because of their ability to squeeze into the tightest spaces and their affordability. I could get a cheap china scooter for as low as PHP 30,000 and spend a fraction on fuel than I would for a car. Even more well-to-do two-wheel afficionados have more choices as high-end scooter and motorcycle brands have set up shop in the Philippines. Scooter riders have the Vespa. Motorcycle fans now have Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Royal Enfield, KTM, BMW alongside the Japanese Yamaha, and Kawasaki dealers. Just go to the Shell station on the Marikina side of Marcos Highway on a weekend morning to see the scooter groups and motorcycle riders in full body armor with their track ready motorcycles getting ready to attack the winding roads of Sierra Madre. Besides the motoring car culture, the two-wheel counter culture is alive and roaring.

I see more people using ANGKAS. The urban “habal-habal” is a testament to how bad the traffic has become where desperate folk put their lives in the hands of the ubiquitous light blue dri-fit sweatshirt clothed scooterista/motorcyclist every single day. There’s a mixture of admiration and worry every time I see an ANGKAS rider and a passenger on EDSA.

I see a lot of the zippy Ford Ecosport, and the love-it-or-hate-it Nissan Juke subcompact SUVs alongside an increasing number of Mini Clubmans and Countrymans. I’m guessing that the fuel economy and sporty looks appeal to the newer generation of drivers. The Honda BR-V and the CR-V now challenging the Subcompact SUV for mindshare.

I drive an AUV. While the Toyota Tamaraws and the Ford Fiera of the late 1900s are more like jeepneys, the 2000s made them more comfortable by making them more like minivans. I prefer the Asian Utility Vehicle over the SUV because of its more car-like driving experience. And I see a lot of them around too, whether they’re the rusting FXs of the 2000s now being mostly used as Public Utility Vehicles or the sleek comfortable Innova that the FX has grown into.

I ride a lot of subcompact sedans. Most notably Toyota Vios-es. Whether as a privately owned car, as a taxi, or as ride-share vehicle. This decade saw the rise (and fall) of ride sharing. Would-be motoring entrepreneurs rushed to their Toyota, Kia, and Hyundai dealers to buy a Vios, a Rio, or an i10, downloaded the UBER (RIP+) and GRAB, and drove like crazy to get this week’s incentive. For motorists like me, it was a chance to leave our cars at home and enjoy a comfortable ride to wherever we were going for an affordable fee. It was short-lived as we know the rest of the story, where government came in and did what it did best.

 

Hope for the future

So, here we are at the cusp of the new decade. The impact of technology has been so great that cars are marketed as I-phone or Android compatible instead of the phone makers making all sorts of gadgets to connect to the cars. Self-driving cars seem to be just on the horizon. And yet, Traffic is at an all-time worst, and with that our air is as dirty as ever endangering anyone who breathes.

For the tree-hugging motorist, the 2010s were supposed to be decade where we lessened our dependence on fuel fossils and gas. It wasn’t.

But there were significant strides abroad with the Elon Musk’s Teslas from the U.S. capturing the attention of the car lovers everywhere. Lighter, better batteries and more efficient electric motors made some of us think that the dream of going home to fuel up our cars by plugging them into outlets was going to be a reality.

From practical hybrids and plug in-vehicles like Toyota’s Prius and the best-selling Nissan Leaf to the luxury and sport models like the BMW I series and the Porsche Taycan, the major auto players are now turning their attention to alternative energy mainly focusing on range. That is, how far one can go on a single charge. Other countries have already started building infrastructure like installing charging ports side by side with gasoline stations extending the range of e-vehicles.

While the Philippines is way behind, there is hope as there are already policies in place to promote alternative energy vehicles and building infrastructure to support them. Here’s hoping we see e-choices in the local showrooms soon.

More choices, more brands, more alternative energy options, more roads, better traffic management, more ride sharing.

These are what I hope to see as we zoom into the 2020s.