Experts review car ownership realities during ‘new normal’

While many office-based employees were able to shelter-at-home during the height of lockdown orders, those working in vital industries like food, healthcare, telecommunications and utilities still trekked to work, even when all forms of public transportation ground to a halt.

This highlighted one important fact: mobility is the lifeblood of the society. Since lockdown measures have eased, there has been a sharp rise in individual car use as commuters shun public transport. Interest in purchasing a vehicle has also been substantial, with more people considering the perks of owning a car.

In an effort to make sense of the realities of car ownership in the ‘new normal,’ trusted auto industry experts converged during the second episode of Wheels Web Series titled “Car ownership in the not-so-new normal” last July 1.

The discussions featured insights from Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar, Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) president Atty. Rommel Gutierrez, Peugeot Philippines business development director Dong Masajo and TV host/motoring journalist James Deakin. Philippine STAR Wheels columnist and BusinessWorld Velocity editor Kap Maceda Aguila moderated the exchanges. 

BUSINESSES SPRING TO LIFE, REBOUND NEARS 

With most parts of the country easing into less stricter quarantine levels, businesses have began to take the path towards normalcy, the auto industry included.

“With the relaxing of quarantine starting June 1, we were able to go back to office and start selling. While sales are still picking up, we are hopeful that in the coming months, there will be more positive figures. From a hundred plus (April), followed by 2,000+ (May), we are expecting 7,000+ units sold in June, so there is indeed growth month on month. We hope this continues until the end of the year,” says Gutierrez.

“The relaxing of quarantines allowed us to resume operations and the first thing we did was to take care of our existing customers. As far as after-sales are concerned, we knew we had a daunting task ahead but we prepared well enough for that to be able to address the needs of our customers. Slowly, things are getting back to the way they were,” explains Magsajo. 

CAR OWNERSHIP IN THE NEW NORMAL

Despite the abundance of safety measures being observed in the ‘new normal,’ there is still considerable anxiety about using public transport, fueled by health concerns and shifting consumer attitudes towards vehicle ownership.

“Public transportation being cancelled left people with this feeling that ‘we really need to get private cars.’ Lack of options during the ECQ and the threat of sharing confined spaces left people feeling vulnerable. The lack of transport brought the country to a halt and even when establishments started opening up, there are so many businesses that have yet to completely open. We realized something we already knew, how important transport is,” points out Deakin.

“Right now, having a vehicle of your own is a necessity if you can afford it.” agrees Magsajo. 

“It’s a buyers market now. We see an unexpected increase in sales for entry-level vehicles, the small ones. We see it growing in the coming months and I think that is the segment where we depend on. But we have a full line-up of vehicles so the choices are there,” shares Gutierrez.    

Meanwhile, Public Works Sectary Mark Villar explains that despite the lockdown, the department is on track in constructing infrastructure projects and completing road repairs.

“We are trying to maintain the same level of efficiency that we had before the COVID-19 pandemic. Just recently we opened the Harbor Link and within this month, the final segment of TPLEX. We were able to do some work during the ECQ because we were granted some exceptions for our flagship projects. Given the conditions of the time, we were able to do a lot of work. Any time that was lost, we were able to make up,” concludes Sec. Villar.    

Powered by the Philippine STAR’s Wheels and BusinessWorld’s Velocity, Wheels Web Series is a three-part webinar about the local auto industry in the age of the pandemic. Stay tuned on the next episode and follow Wheels on Facebook https://web.facebook.com/PhilStarWheels/ or visit https://wheels.ph/.

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