TOYOTA MOTOR Philippines Corp. (TMP) is rolling out the sporty variant of its Vios model as part of its efforts to sell more locally produced cars while it looks forward to the potential timeline extension of a government incentives program.

The company on Wednesday launched its Vios GR Sport, a model assembled in its Santa Rosa, Laguna plant.

TMP Senior Vice-President for Marketing Jose Maria Atienza said that the rollout has been in the works before the imposition of safeguard duties on imported cars, but it is part of efforts to improve sales and increase local production.

“In general, this is one of those additional efforts for Toyota to enhance our sales of our CKD (completely knocked down/locally assembled) models — Vios being our number one model,” he said at the online media launch.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) imposed provisional safeguard duties on imported cars after it found a link between a decline in employment in the local industry and an import surge, based on a petition from an auto parts labor group.

The Safeguard Measures Act or Republic Act No. 8800 allows domestic producers to ask the government to conduct an investigation into their import competitors if they claim to have been injured by excessive imports.

Car manufacturers including Toyota have started raising prices as they collect deposits for cars affected by the provisional duties while the Tariff Commission conducts its own investigation.

The new Vios model will be part of Toyota’s commitment to the government to locally produce cars.

The Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program offers fiscal support to car companies that locally produce 200,000 units of high-volume car models for six years.

TMP First Vice-President Rommel R. Gutierrez had previously said that car manufacturers want the government to extend the compliance period, noting that the companies may not be able to meet the production target after a sales slowdown caused by the pandemic and the Taal Volcano eruption last year.

“We’re still discussing with DTI on the extension of the period, but again DTI understands the necessity — that the CARS program needs to be extended,” Mr. Guttierez, who also heads a car industry group, said during the online launch.

“That’s why we are quite positive about the final decision of the DTI and we understand that it’s not only DTI who’s going to decide on that, but we gather that DTI favorably recommended the extension of the CARS program.” — Jenina P. Ibañez