New man, old challenges

There’s a new man sitting as president of Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation (TMP). Atsuhiro Okamoto has been formally introduced to the big cheeses of the local business community as the replacement of Satoru Suzuki at a good-sized shindig at the Grand Hyatt Manila.

As always happens, inadvertent or not, the usual welcome addresses and speeches at these ceremonial turnovers from outgoing to incoming point to peculiar problems all new TMPC president must face.

How to equal or surpass his predecessor’s achievements? How to maintain Toyota’s record of annual triple crowns—tops in passenger, commercial, and total vehicle sales? How to take strength from and at the same time strengthen Toyota’s reputation as government’s partner in growth.  How to keep Toyota owners happy and satisfied? How to put his own stamp on Toyota’s sustained success in the country?

These problems are all said to be easy and difficult at the same time. 

Easy because Toyota already has staff, strategy, model lineup, network dealership in place that have so far guaranteed success for near two decades, as well as a loyal base that is the wellspring of its annual triple crown. Difficult because the bar just keeps getting higher.

And listening to the presentations and speeches at the turnover, one could conclude that indeed the bar has gotten higher during Suzuki’s four-year term which ended with Toyota attaining a record-breaking 39.5 percent market share in 2019 and extending its triple crown streak to 18 years.

Under Suzuki TMP business grew with the introduction of new models and the expansion of its distribution network nationwide with the addition of 23 dealers to better serve the needs of the market, according to a press statement.

Will Toyota’s market share continue to increase during Okamoto’s term? Will there be more dealerships? Will Toyota introduce new models? And what kind? These should be among the challenges facing Okamoto.

Okamoto is also expected to continue Toyota Motor Philippines’s participation in government’s Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy or CARS Program

In his message during the turnover, TMP Chairman Alfred Ty said Toyota investments under the CARS Program has reached P5.42 billion, enabling transfer of technology, employment generation and skills development, among others.

This participation should now be guided by Toyota Motors’ new global direction of transforming into what it calls a mobility company.  

Under this direction, Toyota’s concept of the automobile will continue to change in the current era of innovations, particularly in terms of connectivity, automation, shared mobility, and electrification, according to the TMP press statement.

According to Toyota, this concept includes aiming to “develop communities that are not just centered on cars but on people.”

Okamato is expected to lead TMP in offering new mobility solutions in the country.

“As TMP’s new president, I would like to reiterate to all TMP Team Members, dealers and suppliers alike, the importance of dedicating our work to contribute to society. We will continuously do so by providing ever better cars and services to enhance the quality of life of Filipinos,” said Okamoto during the turnover.

Here’s wishing Okamoto all the best. Here’s also is our promise to support all Toyota efforts to provide better cars and services to enhance the quality of life of Filipinos.

Speed Limiters

Even casual observation of the goings-on on city streets and national roads reveals one sad fact of local motoring life: there is a lack of enforcement of speed limits.

Aside from the tollways—and perhaps in Davao City—no one is out there enforcing speed limits. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the Land Transportation Office (LTO) is not giving up on efforts to have local and national ordinances on speed limits enforced strictly and properly.

Recently, the second batch of local law enforcers underwent a training for trainors program designed to help local governments enforce speed limits.

This is being done with the help of a group called ImagineLaw which invited experts from the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP),  Robert Susanj and Mark Stables, to give advance training on speed enforcement.

Last October, ImagineLaw, the GSRP, and the LTO conducted the first ever national speed enforcement training. 

A dry-run on speed enforcement was also conducted in Calabarzon and the Bicol region last year. During the latest training of trainors program, GRSP experts Susanj and Mark Stables shared good practices on apprehension, based on learnings from a dry-run.

The latest training for trainers program was undertaken at the LTO Bulwagang Edu at the LTO central office. On the second day of the training, the participants headed to Clark, Pampanga for practical speed measurement exercises with the use of speed guns.

Those who undertook the training are expected to, in turn, impart their newfound knowledge and skills on speed limits enforcement, to traffic rules enforcers in their respective jurisdictions.

The training is well and good but national and local government authorities need to listen well to the messages delivered GRSP experts.

“If local law enforcers are equipped with speed measurement devices and with the knowledge on speed limit enforcement, they become confident to make a difference and save more lives on the road,” said Stables, a former national advisor in charge of road crash investigation in New Zealand, founder of a private traffic safety consultancy, and a consultant of GRSP.

Tools are needed to properly implement speed laws.

Railway Developments

The Duterte Administration has made it a priority to build networks of railway transport, including light rail systems, and subways.

Efforts to develop mass transportation systems using railways are in various stages of completion.  Like most worthwhile projects, many have to hurdle various obstacles.

One project that now has hit a snag is the MRT-7. Recently progress on one of the above ground stations for the MRT-7 was halted.

The Quezon City government is having concerns about the design of the MRT-7 Quezon Memorial Circle Station.  This is understandable because the station will be built on one of city —also make that the nation’s— major landmarks rich in historical and cultural values.

The Department of Transportation is however moving to clear this roadblock to the MRT-7 project.  DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Aban has been talking to both QC government officials and the MRT7 concessionaire San Miguel Corporation.

A news reported quoted Aban as saying: “Kinikilala natin yung concern nila (QC LGU)  about the cultural and the historical integrity of the QC monument and the park, and ang good news natin diyan, si San Miguel, ‘yung ating concessionaire for the MRT-7 Project, has already expressed their openness to review and look at the designs again para makakuha tayo ng ‘win-win’ solution. Napag-usapan po ‘yan sa isang stakeholders meeting last February 14, and it was agreed that on February 28, SMC will present their proposed design to address the concern of the LGU.”

Meanwhile, the DOTr is having to deal with concerns that parts of the proposed Metro Manila Subway straddle a major fault.  But in interviews, Batan belied reports that this is true.

Said Batan: “According (Phivolcs chief Renato) Solidum, the design of the alignment of the Metro Manila Subway took into consideration the location of the West Valley Fault. Further, the DOTr, along with its Japanese consultants, consulted with PHIVOLCS to make sure that the proposed alignment does not cross the fault, and that information from other hazards information maps are considered.”

Happy Motoring!!!

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