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UAAGI takes two

From left are BAIC Brand Head and General Manager Christopher Yu; United Asia Automotive Group, Inc. (UAAGI) Vice-Chairman Kenneth Sytin; BAIC International Manager of South Asia Shawming Cui; UAAGI Chairman Rommel Sytin; UAAGI Group Managing Director Froilan Dytianquin; and UAAGI Assistant Marketing Manager Timothy Sytin. — PHOTO FROM UAAGI

The auto group tucks a couple of important marques under its wing

CLOSING IN ON two decades of operations, United Asia Automotive Group, Inc. (or UAAGI) has been known for being the distributor of established Chinese brands in Foton and Chery, along with UK motorcycle marque Mutt.

Perhaps as a testament to its faith not only in its own abilities but the potentials of our fast-growing mobility industry already recovering from the doldrums of the pandemic, UAAGI recently added two key brands to its distributorship portfolio: Lynk & Co and BAIC.

UAAGI Chairman Rommel L. Sytin said in a release that, “Lynk & Co not only elevates UAAGI’s entire auto brand portfolio, but also allows (it) to cater to a wider audience of Filipino motorists and their discerning tastes and preferences.” Meanwhile, BAIC (Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. Ltd.), a state-owned automotive brand established in 1958 — and which owns Foton as well — comes back to the fore in the local market as UAAGI takes the reins here.

The timing is also ideal as the brand now has a refreshed lineup which UAAGI executives believe will resonate with those looking for quality, good-looking vehicles. “We are proud to reveal our lineup of the world-class BAIC models, and are confident that the Philippine market will appreciate the standout features and design of these first-rate SUVs and crossovers,” added Mr. Sytin.


BAIC

The rejuvenation of BAIC under the wing of UAAGI is being spearheaded by a considerable five-model juggernaut set to publicly debut at the Manila International Auto Show next week.

A preview was held recently at the Palacio de Memoria in Parañaque City, where UAAGI executives were joined by BAIC officials to show off the crossover/SUV models comprising the initial offerings: The B40 Ragnar, B80 Wagon, and B60 Beaumont (a diesel hybrid) — all body-on-frame, four-wheel-drive, diesel- and gas-powered turbocharged SUVs with engine displacements from 2.0 to 3.0 liters and torque from 380Nm to 420Nm. The BAIC X55 Verve and the X7 Grandeza, on the other hand, are gas-sipping (via 1.5-liter turbocharged mills), monocoque-bodied crossovers boasting 305Nm.

In an interview with “Velocity,” BAIC Brand Head and General Manager Christopher Yu shared, “BAIC has really focused on producing off-road, tough, durable SUVs, and other vehicles. Actually, BAIC is also the producer of the military vehicles for China. Part of its factory also produces the vehicles used by the People’s Liberation Army in China. If you look at the quality of our vehicles, it reflects the very durable, very tough, very hardcore (values). That’s what the brand brings to our portfolio.”

The aforementioned models for launch next week range from the P1.4-million (indicative price) BAIC X55 Verve to the BAIC B80 Wagon, priced in the neighborhood of P4.5 million. The price points obviously run contrary to the stereotype of cheap Chinese offerings.

“It’s actually very interesting,” continued Mr. Yu. “When we look at the automotive landscape now, the cars being assembled and produced in China no longer fall into the ‘cheap classification.’ Even other (Chinese) brands have upgraded their features, their specifications, to serve a more upscale market.

“BAIC is unique in the sense that our SUVs have always been catering to this market — a bit more upscale, a bit more premium. The vehicles support this by being very richly featured and have the quality and reliability that you would expect from a multinational assembler and manufacturer of vehicles.”

BAIC vehicles are made in the company’s “world-class, fully robotized plants” in Shunyi, Beijing, and are said to boast style and modern accoutrements in comfort, safety, and convenience — such as large touchscreen displays, automatic power tailgates, automatic LED headlamps, cruise control, smart key entry, power-adjustable seats, LCD instrument panels, panoramic sunroofs, and leather seats, among others. For safety, BAIC models get multiple air bags as well as a “full suite of advanced electronic driver-assist systems, and sophisticated four-wheel drive systems.”

The solidly built BAIC B80 Wagon calls to mind the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen’s own profile and build, which is not surprising given that BAIC actually manufactures Benzes (yes, including the G-Class, we’re told). BAIC Philippines is not shirking from the comparison, and embraces the similarity in design. “It’s actually a positive for our buyers,” insisted Mr. Yu.

The plan for BAIC Philippines is to establish an initial network of some 10 dealerships this year. The first one will open next month (BAIC Alabang), then have the balance open “in quick succession” after.

So, is the Philippines ready to browse and buy China-made-and-branded vehicles that are moving up the traditional price points? “We are confident that there will be a strong market for these BAIC models albeit, maybe, the volume may not be as large as some other brands. Still, we think that we’ll find a home for the BAIC models in the Philippines in a very short time,” averred the executive.


LYNK & CO

Lynk & Co is a brand that assumes a more upmarket position. Co-owned by Geely Automobile Holdings and Volvo Cars, the marque is fairly new — having been established in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2016.

“We feel that the brand is going to offer a lot of innovation, a lot of very unique styling and a lot of safety features meant for a more premium market and a more discerning set of audiences,” said UAAGI Chief Marketing Executive and Senior Vice-President Lyn Buena in an interview with “Velocity” shortly after a brand preview for media and partners.

This appears to be the next phase as the influx of Chinese brands intensifies — a more distinct positioning so that brands are more focused on the people they see buying and enjoying their vehicles.

In the case of Lynk & Co, the demographic in the cross hairs is comprised of a younger, and more affluent, set of car buyers. “(We’re) going to offer car models for the new generation of owners who we feel will appreciate the shared technologies that benefits from Volvo’s technology and Geely’s manufacturing prowess,” continued Ms. Buena. “We feel that the brand is going to offer a lot of innovation, a lot of very unique styling, and a lot of safety features that’s meant for a more premium market and a more discerning set of audiences.”

Meanwhile, in a release, UAAGI Group Managing Director and Lynk & Co Philippines Brand Head Froilan Dytianquin maintained that the brand “affords Filipinos the opportunity to drive home a premium, global vehicle that ticks all the right boxes in terms of design aesthetic, safety, and modern connectivity.”

Benefiting from its Geely/Volvo heritage, Lynk & Co vehicles are said to be built on reliable global platforms CMA, SEA, and BMA — allowing for “model scalability and adaptability in light of new energy solutions, such as translation of Lynk & Co’s designs to accommodate new electric vehicle technologies.”

At the preview held at the Ayala Museum in Makati, Lynk & Co Philippines officials unveiled a couple of models: the 01 PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) crossover, and the 06 SUV.

Set to be launched formally at the forthcoming Manila International Auto Show (MIAS) on April 4, the 01 is powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter MP+ mill paired with a seven-speed wet dual clutch transmission. It can offer as much as 69 kilometers of pure electric range; the system outputs a combined 262ps and 265Nm. Charging is via an AC Type 2 charger.

The 01 gets a complement of advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) features such as adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, traffic jam assist, and lane-keep assist and lane departure warning.

It features so-called Aurora Borealis Daytime Running Lights and Energy Cube LED Rear Lights, and rolls on two-tone 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels. Inside, it gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt and telescopic adjustments. The 01’s instrument panel is a 12-inch full-digital multi-functional instrument panel, while another digital screen (a touchscreen this time) that measures 12.7 inches houses the infotainment system that features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The indicative pricing for the 01 is P2.4 million.

Meanwhile, the 06 subcompact crossover gets a three-cylinder, turbocharged 1.5-liter mill, and sports similar Aurora Borealis DRLs and Energy Cube LED rear lamps. It gets a panoramic sunroof, a powered tailgate, and dual chrome exhaust pipes.

It packs 175hp and 265Nm of torque, and shifts with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. For added safety, there’s a 540-degree camera, six air bags, and ADAS niceties like forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, and lane-change assistance. It also banners intelligent adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist. Indicative pricing is set at P1.5 million.

Said Ms. Buena, “At MIAS, you’ll be seeing the entire product lineup that Lynk & Co Philippines will be offering. We are going to have dealer partners. We’re going to have a series of roadshows.”

As for the rollout plan, the executive said the vision is to have 10 outlets “in a year’s time,” adding, “We feel that a lot of people are going to respond positively to the offers of Lynk & Co Philippines. We’re very excited to cater to that.”

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