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‘AC’celerating EV adoption

Ayala-led AC Motors looks to crank up electric mobility volume as BYD distributor

By Dylan Afuang

IN THE RACE to carbon-neutral mobility via battery electric vehicles (BEVs), the Philippines falls some ways behind the world, as a number of hurdles continue to hinder our country’s adoption of this mobility type.

EVs command a considerable price premium over their internal-combustion-engine-powered counterparts, and public-access charging facilities are generally still few and far between. More glaring issues include our power grid continuing to rely on coal-fired plants. To be fair, nations across the world are in various state of readiness to switch to electric mobility.

Enter the automotive business led by the Ayala conglomerate, AC Motors. It now has taken over the local reins of distribution for BYD, an established Chinese EV brand. The vision, as explained during a recent press conference, is to not only add EV options in the market, but (through AC Motors and the Ayala Group in general) help develop an “EV ecosystem” — of which charging networks are part of.

The hope is that the AC Motors distributorship focus on BYD — a company which has recently marked a milestone five million EVs produced — could solve some problems facing BEV use.

During a media round-table discussion in Makati City, AC Motors Chief Executive Officer Jaime Alfonso Zobel de Ayala stated that distributing BYD plays a key component in the Ayala Group’s plans to lead the country’s transition to EVs.

“The Ayala portfolio is uniquely positioned to provide long-term value to customers in this emerging ecosystem,” Mr. Zobel de Ayala added. “Through our capabilities and efficient energy management of our strategic real estate assets for charging infrastructure or existing automotive distribution and dealership network and capabilities in digital connectivity and financing, we believe we are in a position to provide value to customers.”

The “efficient energy management” and “charging infrastructure” can be provided by ACEN Corp. and Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI). ACEN (formerly AC Energy) is the Ayala Group’s energy platform that aims to provide 100% renewable energy by 2025, while ALI is the company’s real estate arm that opened EV chargers in the country last year.

And as mentioned, the company’s “existing automotive distribution network” is handled by AC Motors, under which are Kia, KTM, Maxus, Volkswagen, and now BYD. The company is building BYD to “become a key brand in the Philippine market, with leading share among EV brands and meaningful presence in the automotive market as a whole,” declared Mr. Zobel de Ayala.

Leading the local BYD distributorship is industry veteran Antonio “Toti” Zara III, former AC Motors Automobile Group president.

With him at the helm, how will this EV brand make its mark here? “We need to communicate the BYD story, we need to communicate the technology, and we need to have a strong dealer network established in the Philippines,” Mr. Zara expressed to the media.

“BYD has an expansive lineup of both passenger and commercial vehicles at competitive price points, allowing the vehicles to be deployed at a larger scale,” AC Motors described in a statement, adding, “Its operations as an automotive manufacturer are also fully integrated, with capabilities not only in designing and assembling the final vehicles, but even in battery technology, electric powertrain development, and semiconductors.”

Mr. Zara stated that in the coming 12 months, the business aims to have at least 12 BYD outlets operational — 10 in Metro Manila and North Luzon, and two in Visayas and Mindanao.

“The plan is (to open) around 40 outlets in five years, but the growth would really depend on the adoption of EVs. We are looking at 15% to 20% EV adoption of total industry sales within about (a) five-year time frame,” the executive added.

And what about BYD cars?

In addition to growing and improving the dealer network, Mr. Zara revealed that the Atto 3 electric crossover will be introduced within the year. The Dolphin hatchback, Han sedan, and Tang SUV comprise the current BYD models.

Regarding pricing, Mr. Zara stated that vehicles supplied by AC Motors would be priced “competitively” as a result of relief and incentives under the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act (EVIDA).

“We will have a stronger brand, a stronger dealer network, and a stronger product portfolio at price points that are now within reach of more Filipinos. We are coming in at the right time with EVIDA (and the exemption) of import duties and excise tax, so BYD products and its technologies will be made more accessible,” he announced.

“These are compelling models that target different market segments and allow us to promote EV adoption across a wide range of customers,” Mr. Zobel de Ayala joined. “With BYD’s leading presence globally in EVs and given its recent success in other Southeast Asian markets, we at AC Motors aspire to build the same level of respect and relevance for the brand in the Philippines.”