No, this is not a story about one of Broadway’s longest-running and most beloved shows.
But this is a story about one of the Philippines’ longest-running and most admired car companies.
It all began in 1989, when an enterprising and driven 30-year-old — barely older than today’s millennials — founded a sizable 3,700-square meter property along EDSA Greenhills. This is where, and when, CATS was born.
CATS was coined from Car Accessories, Tires and Servicenter. CATS would then become synonymous with premium car accessories and service. It catered to a special client base that would be the young businessman’s following to this day. His name? Felix R. Ang — which is why Felix the CAT would become the naming inspiration for his automotive business. And which also makes for perfect symmetry as FRA, as the big boss is refered to by his staff, also celebrates his 60th birthday on the same month as his eponymous company.
Ang’s biggest challenge came way sooner than expected — in December of 1989 when the bloodiest coup in Philippine history was staged. The heavy fighting was concentrated at Camps Aguinaldo and Crame along EDSA, and Ang found himself and his business right smack in the middle of the crossfire.
“That was a challenging time for me because we had just opened in October and by December there was a coup. I told myself, well there goes my business,” Ang says.
“Chinese tradition has it that you have fireworks when you open a business. In my case, there were cannons and grenades,” he adds. Fortunately, the CATS property was spared and Ang was just getting primed for more success.
Mercedes-Benz and CATS
A mere two years later, in 1991, Mercedes-Benz appointed CATS as its authorized Mercedes-Benz Workshop which officially started CATS’ relationship with Mercedes-Benz. By 1993, Ang was determined to make a solid mark in the automotive landscape so he started selling Mercedes-Benz vehicles as a dealer for then distributor Commercial Motors Corporation, eventually becoming its top-selling dealer. This paved the way for CATS to become practically synonymous with the prestigious three-pointed star brand from Stuttgart.
In 1995, CATS Motors, Inc. was established to focus primarily on the retail sales of Mercedes-Benz automobiles with the Greenhills property as its showroom. The company then expanded its dealer footprint in 2003 with the opening of an expansive new corner-lot showroom in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
Following these successes, CATS Motors was granted general distributorship of Mercedes-Benz passenger and commercial vehicles in 2004. The company was also awarded the general distributorship of Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge in 2005 — a time when the American brands were entwined with the German luxury automaker as DaimlerChrysler.
Today, the CATS Group’s rock-solid partnership with Mercedes-Benz spans 28 years to this day (1991 to 2019).
Brand-building — in every sense of the word
The CATS Group also established new business entities to focus on new partnerships and expand its dealership network. In 2003, the group acquired a Mazda dealership also located along EDSA Greenhills, barely a kilometer from the Mercedes-Benz showroom. The CATS Group also ventured into the luxury motorcycle market with the launch of its Harley-Davidson of Manila store in 2013.
The group then established Auto Nation Group, Inc. in 2014 to solely handle the distribution of Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler Group vehicles, and soon thereafter, appointed new dealerships in Alabang and Cebu.
In 2017, the group invested in Coventry Motors Corporation which was then appointed by Jaguar and Land Rover to be the exclusive importer and distributor of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles, accessories, and parts in the Philippines. The following year, Coventry Motors announced All British Cars — also on EDSA Greenhills — as its first dealer for the British marque.
This month, celebrating 30 years with luxury German and British marques as well as premium American and Japanese brands under its belt, the CATS Group of Companies continues to be a driving force that helps shape the local automotive industry. As the official distribution and retail partner in the Philippines of iconic automotive brands like Mercedes-Benz and Jeep, the CATS Group has carved its own niche in the local automotive industry and evolved into becoming the go-to of discriminating Filipino buyers looking to buy a luxury vehicle.
What started as a twinkle in the eye of a determined young teenager who quit school to work is now a group of companies of close to 500 people, all committed to customer satisfaction and quality service – a legacy of the group’s core values that are inspired by its visionary founder.