I never thought I would write this sentence, but I think the Vios is one of the most unique nameplates in the country today.
Yes, I’m not oblivious of the fact that Toyota Motor Philippines moved around 33,000 units of the Vios in 2019. I am also aware that it was hailed as the bestselling vehicle in the Philippines. And I know that the Vios’s sales success is both due to private and public transportation/fleet usage.
So how come the most ubiquitous sedan in the country is also one of the most unique? The answer lies in that stick found between the seats.
For the 2020 model year, Toyota Vios comes with a new, cleaner yet sportier face – at least in comparison to its pre-facelift model. TMP also dropped the Prime trims, unifying the look of the ever-present sedan across the range.
What the company isn’t dropping, however, is the manual transmission option. The best part is, the stickshift option for the 2020 Vios is present from the entry-level Base trim all the way up to the top-of-the-line G variant, except for the XE that’s exclusively available in CVT. That’s five out six variant levels that come with an option to row your own gears.
Now, why is that a big deal? For the longest time, we’ve seen the MT option getting kicked out of vehicle lineups. In cases where MT is available, car buyers are forced to choose the base or entry-level option to get a stick.
For a buyer who wants all the bells and the whistles in a car but doesn’t want to lose the third pedal, this is great – although we know that the population of those buyers is dwindling by the hour.
TMP knows that, too. Within the company’s local lineup alone, only the Vios and Hilux come with an extensive range that offers a manual transmission for the top-spec variant. As with any other company, the stick shift is only available in mid- and entry-level variants of other Toyota vehicles.
So why is Toyota keeping the manuals alive in the 2020 Vios? According to Nico Bravante, TMP’s Vice President for Product Planning, “We are keeping it but only for indent order as there are a few customers, especially in provincial areas, that want MT.”
Guess that’s one of the perks of being able to build the car locally. Demand for MTs isn’t substantial these days, especially for those who reside in Metro Manila, but if you can make one without the need to order one abroad, that’s a privilege you have to take, especially if it’s for your bestseller. The more options in the market for the consumers, the better.
On that note, did you know that TMP has already built around 297,000 Vios units in its Santa Rosa, Laguna plant since 2007? Considering the number of jobs needed to enforce this number, the importance of the Vios to the Filipino market goes beyond its successful sales numbers – but that’s another story for another time.