Are we ready for new normal vehicle launches and group rides and drives?
To the delight of some motoring media types, some automobile companies have invited media to vehicle unveilings that don’t take place over the internet and Zoom or streamed on YouTube and Facebook.
Or to a ride and drive of the new models much like they did before Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to those joyrides.
Of course, the auto companies took pains to have those invited to the unveiling of a new variant of model launched late last year and to a quick ride and ride of a popular crossover to get swabbed.
Again the auto companies are finding ways to return to some sort of normalcy—vehicle launches where media can experience the excitement of seeing up close a new model for the first time.
Or getting first hand experience of driving a new model on short jaunts or days-long adventures with their peers—what better way to find out how the latest upgrades make a car more enjoyable.
Some of our peers are now saying, perhaps a better way may be auto companies sponsoring vaccinations for their favorite media friends. Hint, hint!
But a significant take from these new initiatives is that auto companies continue to learn how to live with the Covid-19 virus lurking in midst.
Sojitz G Auto Philippines (SGAP) launched the Geely Okavango Urban Plus, the same Okavango with just a few upgrades.
These include a 60-inch Panoramic Sunroof, ADB, or Adaptive Drive Beam, the Matrix LED Headlamps, and a 12.3-inch Digitala Instrument Panel.
The Okavango Urban Plus will still be powered by a 1.5L Turbo engine, three rows of seats for full-sized adults, 19-seat configurations, 42 storage nooks and compartments, double-layer console, and the triple-zone air-conditioning system equipped with CN95 filter.
The upgraded Urban is the first new Geely offerings for the 2021, a year in which SGAP plans to reinforce its vehicle lineup with more updates and adding a completely new model in the second half of the year.
But even more significant than the launch of the new Okavango Urban Plus itself was that it was unveiled during a lunch with invited members of media, SGAP’s first media event not held online or in the virtual world this year.
Kia Stonic ride
Kia Philippines did Geely one better in the sense of holding a media event in the real world, as opposed to events held online.
Kia held a ride and drive of the popular subcompact crossover, the Stonic.
Kia invited several members of media for “a quick spin in the outskirts of Metro Manila to experience the 5S Formula” it hopes will further add to the popularity of the Stonic.
The five S’s are Style, Space, Shift, Sounds, and Service.
Style is all about the Stonic’s overall look which unapologetically is targetted at the young.
Space is all about the surprisingly roomy cabin of Kia’s subcompact crossover helped along by its long wheelbase.
Shift is about the efficiency of the 1.4 dual CVVT petrol engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission that is great for driving in traffic and fun on the open roads.
Sounds refer the Stonic’s eight-inch touchscreen audio system that easily connects to mobile devices compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay that plays through six speakers, as well as the USB port and the 12-volt socket for charging movile devices.
Service refers to various services offered by Kia to make the ownership experience all the more satisfying. These include, among other things, five-year or 160,000-km warranty, 24/7 Roadside Assistance for five years.
Kia assured that throughout the ride and drive, “proper health protocols such as swab tests and social distancing measures were applied to participants and vehicles to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”
Lower testing fees
Will lower motor vehicle inspection fees assuage anger and complaints about the new requirement for vehicle registration?
At the suggestion of Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, the Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Center (PMVIC) owners have agreed to lower fees for testing, at least for one year.
They have also agreed to waive fees for retesting vehicles that have failed to pass testing, again at least for year while the country is still struggling to overcome the pandemic.
This means that from P1,500-P1,800, the PMVIC testing fee will be lowered to P600 for private vehicles, P500 for motorcycles, and P300 for public utility jeepneys.
Even though PMVIC members will be charging the same fees as charged by Private Emission Testing Centers (PETC), the testing process will cover all 73 inspection items, including smoke emission, for a comprehensive test of a vehicle’s roadworthiness.
The noise on social media over the PMVIC issue has diminished somewhat but some are still calling for government to make testing free.