This is a spike we welcome

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Car sales making a recovery, according to CAMPI, AVID

WHAT AN opportune moment indeed to talk about the automotive industry just as we celebrate the anniversary of BusinessWorld. Why, you ask? Well, this should be a day of rejoicing or, perhaps more appropriately, flashing a defiant, stiff upper lip, in the middle of what is perceived to be a print medium under siege. Thirty-three years on, the paper is still here, and we’re soldiering on amid the naysayers and a tough time for basically everyone.

Resiliency is never overrated because it is simply what enables us to rise and overcome. Filipinos are famously known to smile in the face of adversity. But smiling is half the battle, because if you don’t put the work in, you’ll stay a victim of circumstance — a tiny sailboat caught in a storm at sea, not knowing where it will end up. Dead Poets Society taught us that it’s about seizing the day instead of, well, ceding control to fate.

The local auto industry has done exactly that. Instead of laying on the ground to throw a tantrum and rail in vain against lost chances and rue limited opportunities, brands have stepped up in the new normal by putting on their thinking caps instead of grasping at straws.

The recently concluded “Mobility in the New Normal” three-part webinar series powered by our sister publication The Philippine STAR’s motoring section “Wheels” and co-sponsored as a media partner by BusinessWorld’s own “Velocity” section spoke volumes about how, amid the limitations brought about by our being mindful of the pandemic, the auto industry has found a way to recover.

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Instead of waiting for the situation to revert back to the old, companies welcomed the new and learned to work within its parameters.

Mindful of the real threat of infection (and, yes, since we don’t have a vaccine yet, we don’t want to tempt fate), showrooms and service centers have reopened cautiously with a whole slew of protocols in place — from sterilizing shoe mats, numerous hand sanitizers, to transparent barriers and PPE for everyone. They have learned to work around the situation and not be paralyzed by it.

Those who had merely covered the digital base before as an afterthought are now learning to leverage the advantages of the platform. Digital or virtual showrooms have become the norm, and many brands are leveling up the functionalities of these websites/microsites.

Jurassic Park said that life finds a way. Well, auto brands have surely found a way, and they are making hay with what little sunshine is filtering through dark clouds.

In April, the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) reported an all-time low of 133 units in sales as most dealerships were shuttered for the quarantine. I’m sure you all recall how dire and bleak the situation was. Four months from the first lockdown via enhanced community quarantine, we can already look back at a tale of resiliency.

Dealerships and shops opened, and with it, an influx of a) people who needed to have their vehicles serviced, and b) people who were actually on the lookout to buy vehicles. Yes, we’re buying cars again.

Just last week, CAMPI/TMA revealed consolidated sales of 15,578 units in June. While still a modest number compared to pre-COVID figures, I’d like to point out that this represents 225.4% growth over May’s total of 4,788. Compare that again to April for an even more eye-popping number — incredible 11,612% growth from April to June. I’d take that any day.

The story is pretty much the same over at the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID). In June, its 21 member companies representing 26 global brands sold 3,697 vehicles, increasing by 198% compared to May’s 1,239 units sold.

Experts are divided on when we’ll exactly get back to normal. I’ve heard opinions ranging from the end of 2020 to well into next year. But what’s important is that industry players are predicting a renaissance, period, of the industry that used to be a shining star of the Philippine economy.

We, at BusinessWorld, surely cling on to warm, fuzzy thoughts like that — not because the alternative is unfathomable, but because we truly believe that, well, print is not dead.

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