Local importer of GM vehicles plans to sell Buicks, Cadillacs

By Jessica Anne D. Hermosa, BusinessWorld

Posted at Oct 25 2010 01:24 AM | Updated as of Oct 25 2010 09:25 AM

 MANILA, Philippines - The local distributor of General Motor Co.’s (GM) Chevrolet cars will be adding the American company’s Buick and Cadillac brands to its lineup, signalling that the strategy to outsource Philippine sales will be maintained despite the eventual recovery of the bailed-out car maker.

Filipino-owned The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCCI) said on Friday a rollout of Buick and Cadillac models was the next step after it was appointed the official Chevrolet importer late last year.

GM’s Southeast Asia division, for its part, confirmed that the car maker will maintain the recent restructuring of sales and other operations despite brewing plans for a possible stock listing to reduce the US Treasury’s 61% stake in the firm.

“It’s in the pipeline,” Alberto M. Arcilla, TCCCI managing director, said on the sidelines of a press briefing when asked about the local distribution of GM’s other brands.

“We are looking at bringing in the Cadillac and the Buick [brands] which are not yet sold in the Philippines,” Mr. Arcilla said.

TCCCI was appointed the local Chevrolet distributor in October 2009 after GM declared bankruptcy and was restructured under a $50-billion bailout from Washington.

Mr. Arcilla declined to give a timetable for the portfolio expansion, saying only that TCCCI would have to “achieve sales targets for Chevrolet” first.

It is aiming to hit a 2,000-unit Chevrolet sales target for 2010, up by roughly 50% from 2009.

TCCCI has sold 1,425 units from January to September, according to the latest industry data.

The sales growth goal is faster than the 25% growth forecast for Chevrolet sales in Southeast Asia, Martin Apfel, president of GM’s regional operations, said during the event.

GM, he added, has a “firm commitment” to maintain the current restructuring plans, noting that it had similarly outsourced sales operations in Malaysia to a local firm.

GM’s planned initial public offering or IPO should have “no impact” on its Southeast Asia strategy, Mr. Apfel said on the sidelines.

The car maker is looking to hiking sales in Southeast Asia, which currently make up just 2% of global sales, by increasingly sourcing more components locally to take advantage of a regional trade pact, he said.

The American firm has invested $500 million to build an engine plant in Thailand that will supply the region, Mr. Apfel said.