Time to pick up a pickup (or maybe not)

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When I saw the Ford Ranger Raptor in the metal for the first time back in February (in Thailand), one of my first thoughts was that its pricing would easily breach the P2-million mark. I was wrong, of course. At the super truck’s official Philippine launch last weekend, Ford announced the Raptor’s irresistible price tag: P1,898,000. Predictably, the amount sent pickup enthusiasts (even non-enthusiasts, actually) cheering and salivating.

Too good to be true? If you weren’t paying attention to news reports at the start of the year providing details on the freshly minted Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN), then you should know that all pickup trucks in our market are now 100% exempt from excise tax. Which means pickups are now relatively more affordable compared to other vehicle types.

Immediately after the approval of the TRAIN law, prices of pickup models in the country started going down. From Chevrolet and Isuzu to Mitsubishi and Toyota, automakers with pickup offerings shaved anywhere from P100,000 to P200,000 off their workhorses’ pricing. If you seem to be noticing more brand-new pickups on the road these days, it’s because more car buyers are starting to appreciate their unbeatable value proposition in light of their tax exemption.

The pickup was extended a full tax break on the premise that it is technically an instrument of commercial activity — that it is primarily used for work and enterprise. But for the last decade or so, pickup trucks in our market have been positioned as lifestyle vehicles. Where pickups used to be treated as commercial (read: utility) movers, they are now regarded as cars for people who lead dynamic lives and keep busy schedules. It is no longer uncommon to see a pickup truck pulling up in a hotel driveway to disgorge passengers in crisp suits.

And the standard features found on pickups are only going to get better as the segment becomes more competitive. With the arrival of the Raptor, rival brands will throw everything into their trucks just to compete. Just a few days before the Raptor launch, Chevrolet Philippines had communicated the local availability of the Colorado’s sporty High Country Storm variant. At the season-ending Vios Cup race last weekend at Clark International Speedway, Toyota showed off handsome TRD after-market accessories for the Hilux. I have no doubt that all car companies that sell pickups will now try to out-spec each other in order to entice buyers — particularly in this time of a lingering sales slump.


Obviously, pickups aren’t for everyone. I know many people who will never ditch their sedan or SUV for a three-box, leaf-sprung vehicle. But thanks to more attractive pricing and better packaging, more and more car owners are beginning to consider getting one. That’s a heck of an improvement in terms of consumer behavior.

The only drawback I see in this development is that pickup models in our market are powered by diesel engines. While diesel is cheaper and generally more fuel-efficient than gasoline, it is also very harmful to humans. The World Health Organization has even classified it as a carcinogen. In fact, Toyota, Volvo and just very recently Porsche have all made known their intent to discontinue selling diesel cars in Europe (in the case of Toyota) or anywhere in the world (Porsche).

Tough luck, then: The one vehicle type that currently offers the most value is also the same vehicle type that might expedite our appointment with the undertaker. Pick your poison.