I’VE ALWAYS looked forward to my yearly visit to the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) compound in Pasig City for the Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit (PEVS). This is staged by the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP), which “envisions a nation wherein the use of electric vehicles is highly promoted, encouraged and supported by its government and the society in order to develop a transportation landscape that is one with the environment ecologically and economically.”
More than a lobby for electric mobility, the PEVS brings together “various stakeholders across the EV (electric vehicle) value chain as well as policy makers, regulators, academe, consultants, transport companies, utilities and end-users to exchange and share their experiences and research results on all aspects of electric vehicles and supporting infrastructure.”
Sadly though, as EVAP turns 10 (and celebrates a decade of partnership with Meralco), the PEVS was not staged in its old stomping grounds.
For the first time ever, the PEVS went digital because, well, it’s 2020. Themed “Moving Forward to an Electrified Mobility in the New Normal,” EVAP partnered with e-learning training and consulting company Olern to make the shift to virtual possible for the three-day event.
The online discussion at PEVS continued a focused conversation on “electric vehicle adoption and the challenges and opportunities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic on both the supply and demand side of the electric vehicle market.”
In his welcome remarks, EVAP President Edmund Araga posited, “While the current times are full of uncertainty and the next few years look bleak, they also provide new opportunities and insights on how to make the world a better place including on how to push forward electric vehicles in the Philippines. Among others, it allows us to reboot the way we move.”
Key partners of the 8th PEVS included Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. and Nissan Philippines, Inc., with PMFTC Unsmoke; Department of Transportation; United Nations Development Programme; Department of Energy; and eSakay.
Meanwhile, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez delivered a speech on the opening day of the PEVS, saying he wants to see the Philippines become an EV production hub in the region with a capacity of up to 150,000 units a year, “given that almost all of the region is primed to do the same.” He noted that we must work to have a competitive edge, evolve business models, and apply digital technologies across the value chain to achieve success in the beckoning realm of EVs.
Still, Sec. Lopez maintained that the disruption of EVs will only be realized if common pain points are addressed. EVs need to charge fast, travel far enough, and have an adequate charging infrastructure in place. Government’s promise, averred the government official, is that it will provide “an enabling environment” for concerns such as establishing the aforementioned charging/battery swapping stations. “We need to have a holistic approach to develop an ecosystem,” he said.
I certainly agree that the private sector, despite the laudable work and significant resources already put in by members of the EVAP and their allies, can only do so much without having the government on board.
KIA STONIC MEDIA PREVIEW
As we go to press, Kia Philippines has just wound up its media preview of the Kia Stonic SUV, set for launch on Oct. 15. Marketed as a 2021 model, the subcompact crossover (and 11th model of Kia here) is expected to move at least 300 units before the end of 2020.
Kia Philippines President Manny Aligada expressed confidence that the Philippine automotive industry can still hit an annual sales of 275,000 by yearend, while acknowledging that a trajectory of recovery was beaten back by the implementation of a two-week modified enhanced community quarantine last August.
Positioned for millennials and a younger set, the Stonic is described by the company as “suitable for first-time buyers and trendy car owners who want to showcase their exquisite taste in their vehicle,” and the pricing indeed lends credence to this aspiration. The Stonic is currently being offered at pre-launch prices of P675,000 for the entry-level variant (LX MT), P785,000 for the middle trim (LX AT) and P875,000 for the top variant.
Now, I’m sure that got your attention. Isn’t it an admittedly excellent price point for anything other than a subcompact sedan? However, I also pointed out to the executive that, of course, financing plays an important part in helping realize Kia’s sales vision. We’ve previously discussed in this column that up to 80% of car purchases are enabled by financial instruments, and that banks aren’t really all that enthused about handing out car loans amid an obviously difficult economic climate. From a high 50%-60% approval rate, only 10%-20% of COVID-19-era applications are now being okayed, revealed a source. “Sometimes it’s even single digit,” noted Mr. Aligada.
To adjust to this new business normal, Kia is evolving its mode of attack appropriately. He narrated, “We’re trying to work directly with segments which stand a better chance of approval.” For instance, there are “natural markets within the Ayala Group” and its suppliers who can be tapped as a ready, credit-friendly target buyers. There are those who are “not Ayala-related but mimic the Ayala environment.”
Mr. Aligada said it’s also about training sales frontliners to do efficient vetting or targeting as well, “so that they don’t waste the time of the banks.” He maintained, “even if approval rates are thin. It’s about funneling a pipe that goes through that.”
For more information on the Kia Stonic, visit www.kia.com.ph.