The rise of commercial vehicles

As a motoring journalist, we’re used to seeing the local vehicle sales chart month after month, year after year. More importantly, the usual names are almost always present at the top of the charts, such as small passenger cars, pickup trucks, and even SUVs.

But the story is a bit different for the first half of 2021. While the Toyota Vios remains as the undisputed local bestseller in the aforementioned period, there are two unusual nameplates that rose at the top – and they’re not bought for personal use. 

I’m talking about the Mitsubishi L300 and Suzuki Carry. Yes, they aren’t the most exciting and best-looking within their lineups, but both vehicles carried their nameplate to the top of each brand’s sales ladder.

Of note, the Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (MMPC) sold a total of 6,021 L300 units during the first six months of 2021, while Suzuki Philippines (SPH) moved 1,985 units of the Carry during the same period. The Xpander MPV and Mirage G4 rank second and third for MMPC, respectively, each selling 5,543 and 3,737 units. SPH, on the other hand, has the Ertiga MPV (1,960 units) and Dzire subcompact sedan (1,833) following the small commercial vehicle.

Of note, MMPC remains at the second spot of the Philippine auto sales chart behind Toyota for H1 2021, while SPH took the third spot from Ford Philippines who held the place for two consecutive months.

It’s a bit challenging to find reasons as to why there has been a demand surge for commercial vehicles, but we can only assume resilience from businesses during these hard times that involve the health crisis. Moreover, cargo-hauling businesses, deliveries, and even mobility for employees have become a major industry these days, considering the limited movement from the fluctuating quarantine measures.

To get more insights, I turned to both car companies for comments regarding the popularity of their respective commercial vehicles.

Mark Parulan, MMPC’s Assistant Vice President and General Manager for Brand Communications, implies that the L300’s long-running foothold in the local market, among others, makes it a popular choice among businesses.

“The L300 has been an iconic nameplate in the utilitarian van segment. For decades it has provided reliable performance and easy ownership experience. With its new Euro 4 engine, it delivers more power and torque plus better fuel efficiency. MMPC has also created a strong bond with its L300 customers and is committed to continuing giving dedicated service,” Parulan said.

Mr. Keiichi Suzuki, SPH’s Vice President and General Manager for automobiles, added more insight, citing the shift in business priorities as the current health crisis continues to loom.

“Our current situation brought increasing demands for infrastructure and delivery service, and because of this, we noticed that the rise of MSMEs and even large companies opting for compact and value for money commercial vehicles paved the way for Carry to be considered as their mobility partner. Backed by more than 40 years of experience in different environments and weather conditions, the Carry makes it the most suitable vehicle even on narrow roads for these businesses now with even rising demand brought by the current situation,” Suzuki-san added.

We’ll know whether the popularity of commercial vehicles will continue toward the second half of the year. Or if other car brands that offer similar products, such as Hyundai with its H100 and Kia with its K2500, will see an upward trend with their contenders.

If the trend continues to go up, expect more commercial vehicle offerings from car companies, especially those who are yet to offer one.

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