Letting the public choose their Automobile of the Year

It feels like it was just a couple of months ago! Well, a bit longer that I should say. But just over five months ago, the Toyota Hilux and the Toyota Alphard were officially proclaimed as the 2020-2021 Auto Focus Automobiles of the Year in their respective Standard and Premium/Luxury model categories during online awards ceremonies held with participants on December 17, 2020. And now, we’re at it again!

Thankfully, the online public poll of the 17th annual edition of Sunshine Television’s (STV) premier motoring program is now off and running from June 1st without the challenges that faced us in March 2020 with the onset of the present COVID-19 pandemic and strict lockdown conditions about to be imposed throughout the Philippines.

Looking back at that point in time, putting on hold the Auto Focus People’s Choice Awards (AFPCA), the country’s only project that determines the local market’s most popular automobile brands and models, was a very real possibility. The outlook for the motoring industry in the forthcoming months appeared grim, and no one knew how and when the worsening crisis would end. Thus, the most important question STV and the organizing committee tackled was: Would the AFPCA continue to benefit the car industry and its customers during the period?

The group’s quick answer was: Yes! And the group’s immediate decision was: Let’s go ahead and do it! I can now declare, without any doubt whatsoever that I’m happy the AFPCA streak remained intact, and that the 2020 experience provided new and valuable insights are being applied this year.

Over the past 16 years, the AFPCA has traditionally launched its public poll beginning April 1. More recent years featured a six-month voting period that ended on September 30. However, the limitations on public movement and business operations severely curtailed the motoring industry’s efforts to generate reasonable unit sales under a lockdown environment. Limitations eased somewhat when GCQ came around midyear, but car dealers and distributors continued to struggle despite a flurry of unprecedented promotional offers and delayed new model introductions.

The extension of the public poll for another two months, to November 30, was the AFPCA’s humble attempt at maintaining or creating more public interest in what the industry had to offer. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen another wave of new models enter the market. Still, at this time, it is still an uphill climb to recovery. Thus, it is in light of this that the AFPCA public poll was moved back from the original April 1 to Sept. 30 period to June 1 to Nov. 30. It is the hope STV that the “delayed” voting period allowed manufacturers and distributors added time to complete their model lineups and promote new launches, as well as provided the motoring public and new buyers more time to become aware of and get familiar with the newer cars.

Here’s another new development pertinent to the AFPCA Rules and Guidelines. Gerry Aquino, Chairman of the AFPCA Awards Committee, and I recently had the opportunity to discuss and analyze in more depth the essence and value of being enshrined in the AFPCA Hall of Fame. Under the present Rules and Guidelines, five-time Model and three-time Automobile of the Year awardees are accorded the distinct honor of being entered into the Hall of Fame. Over the past 16 years, only a handful of models have gained such elite status. Among the chosen few:

MODEL OF THE YEAR: STANDARD

 Isuzu Crosswind; Hyundai Grand Starex; Toyota Camry; Toyota Innova; Mitsubishi Montero Sport; Toyota HiAce; Toyota Fortuner; Toyota Hilux; Nissan Navara

MODEL OF THE YEAR: PREMIUM/LUXURY

Lexus IS350; Lexus RS350; Toyota Alphard

AUTOMOBILE OF THE YEAR

Toyota Vios; Toyota Fortuner.

The rules consider that this rare, hard-to-attain award of excellence has elevated winners to the pinnacle of their respective model categories, and therefore, further recognition is no longer unnecessary. Well and good, perhaps, but several factors compelled us to rethink this particular rule through especially these: One, most of the Hall of Fame models are still concurrent, which is testimony to their continuing popularity. Two, the AFPCA is based on people’s choices and votes. Therefore, shouldn’t a model they prefer be excluded from the Official Entry List simply by virtue of its Hall of Fame status? Three, simply put, if a model truly deserves to win, why deprive it of this privilege when it’s out there in the market competing with other contenders? And Four, the more complete the Official AFPCA Entry List is, the more credible the voting results and scores will become. So, unlike in previous years, the Hall of Famers will return to voting circulation and again be eligible for Model and Automobile of the Year awards.

The AFPCA will determine winners in five Standard (Sedan; Sports Car; SUV/Crossover; Van/MPV and Pickup) and four Premium/Luxury (Sedan; Sports Car; SUV/Crossover and Van/MPV) Model of the Year classifications. There will be separate Automobile of the Year titles for Standard and Premium/Luxury models.

Dear readers, may I invite you to participate in the online poll of the 2021-2022 Auto Focus People’s Choice Awards. To vote, please click onto this link autofocus.com.ph/afpca2021/ that will direct you to the AFPCA Voting Page. You can make as many as five choices each in the separate Standard and Premium/Luxury categories every day from June 1 to November 30.

Suzuki Vitara

Just when you thought you have sifted through all local offerings in the compact and subcompact SUV/crossover segments, and ready to come to a decision, here comes another juicy option.

Suzuki Philippines has unveiled the new Vitara AllGrip. Says Keiichi Suzuki, Suzuki Philippines VP and GM for automobile division“One of the iconic models of the brand, this newest 4×4 vehicle provides individuality, stylish looks and added confidence on the road. This car will definitely encourage people to drive and bring more fun into their lives.”

The new Vitara AllGrip comes all the way from Hungary, where is it manufactured by Suzuki Hungary.

This new Vitara should make 4×4 enthusiasts salivate a little with its 1.6-litre engine and six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and paddle shift. This is combined with Suzuki’s Allgrip 4WD system, which allows switching from Auto, Sport, Snow, and Lock modes depending on the road conditions and driving scenarios.

VW T-Cross

Another SUV/crossover needing to be looked at by undecided buyers is the Volkswagen T-Cross. After long weeks of a PR campaign building awareness of its global success, the VW T-Cross is now available for sale at Volkswagen dealerships in Luzon and in the Visayas and Mindanao by June 4. VW has even extended the introductory offer of P30,000 discount from the standard retail prices until June 30.

Standard retail prices are P1.068 million for the T-Cross 180 MPI S and P1.168 million for the T-Cross 180 MPI SE.

Happy Motoring!!!

For comments & inquiries email [email protected] or visit their website

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