Despite the changing preferences and attitudes of Filipino car buyers, the Philippines’ automotive industry remains as one of the fastest-growing market in Southeast Asia. For the first nine months of the year, a total of 302,869 units were sold, a 15.9% higher than year-ago figure of 261,370 units. Given the good sales performance of key models and the plans to increase the excise tax on automobiles, vehicle sales within the year is expected to end strong.

The process of purchasing a car in the country has changed due to various factors and trends. The country’s lack of efficient mass transportation system has increased the desire of Filipinos to purchase a car, while the attractive loan programs and low down payments offered by financial institutions have made owning a car accessible.

In a study presented by the National Economic and Development Authority last year, 77% of Filipinos prefer to use their own car to travel to places than using public transportation. Filipinos want to be mobile, and owning a car is part of many families vision of their future.

With the burgeoning market, more banks invest in consumer loans and come up with different strategies to encourage Filipinos to purchase a car. To raise their share in the industry, they offer lower interest rates, attractive product offerings and freebies.

Access to automotive products and services online also contributes to the changing behavior of Filipinos. Instead of the traditional methods of personal contact to dealers and printed classifieds, some consumers tend to search about cars’ features in the Internet.

In a report by car trading Web site Carmudi about the changing trends in automotive search behavior of Filipinos, the most searched colors from 2014 to 2016 for new cars were white and silver/gray, interchangeably, while for used cars was silver/gray. The site said that their data clearly reflects the dealers’ feedback that neutral colors are the staple shades for Filipino buyers.

When searching for car condition, nearly 60% of all searches were focused on new cars from 2014 to 2015. Significant changes occurred from 2015 to 2016 as searches for used cars surged up to 82%, pushing new car searches down to 18%. Based on this data, it can be concluded that there is a growing interest in used cars or more conversion-centric searches with an intent to purchase, the site said.

In terms of car brand recognition, Hyundai was the most searched brand for new cars, followed by Toyota and Ford for the period of 2014 to 2015. A bit has changed for 2015 to 2016 as Toyota replaced Hyundai on the top search. For the used cars category, Toyota is still the most searched brands by Filipinos from 2014 to 2016.

“The reasons behind Toyota’s dominance in the market, according to these automotive industry insiders, is due to the brand’s high resale value, its competitive pricing, excellent fuel efficiency and reasonable maintenance costs,” Carmudi said.

For the body style, Carmudi said that based on its survey conducted to new and used car dealers, SUV is the dominant body style they sold to customers. As the site explained, SUV is popular to customers because it is spacious for the whole family, has a good safety records and excellent performance in difficult weather conditions such as flooding. — Mark Louis F. Ferrolino