By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer DUE to space constraints, Inquirer Motoring can only print one sob story this week. In the hope that car manufacturers and the motoring public would learn a lesson or two from these real experiences, we share with our readers what others were unfortunate enough to have lived through. All names have been changed to protect their privacy. Edgar dela Cruz was visibly pleased when the sales agent handed over to him the keys to his wife Kathy’s brand-new 1.8-liter automatic transmission sedan last July 5 at a Shaw Boulevard dealership. But as soon as he opened the car’s door to savor the look and feel of a brand new car, he almost literally smelled a ratty deal had taken place. Edgar noticed that the car seats and sidings were no longer covered with plastic, as was customary with straight-off-the-factory deliveries, and he recalled that the interior “smelled like an old book in the library.” He initially refused to accept the vehicle, and asked the agent for another unit. No other stock was available, the agent reasoned. Edgar, too eager to deliver the “brand new car” to his wife, settled with the unit and took the vehicle home the next day. Edgar might as well have brought home a naughty poltergeist. Within the first few days, the key couldn’t be extracted from the ignition slot. No amount of “coaching” from the dealership would help (how hard could removing a key from the ignition be?). Mysteriously, the stubborn slot did give up its key, but then immediately afterward another problem cropped up. One of the power windows started malfunctioning. Two annoying problems, all occurring before the vehicle could reach the 1,000-km initial checkup mark. The Dela Cruz couple demanded a thorough review of their unit’s computer system. Little did they know that a window malfunction would be the least of their problems. On Aug. 9, after the casa released the unit for its 1,000-km checkup, the couple noticed the car's dramatic delay in acceleration. The service representative explained that the delay was a normal reaction of the vehicle because of its supposedly “new engine design.” After a few days, the gas cover couldn’t be opened. Frustrated, Edgar brought the vehicle in for further checkups on Aug. 18. The problems were supposedly fixed the same day. But as Edgar drove off with wife and their two daughters, and proceeded to overtake a slow-moving truck along Pioneer Street toward Boni Avenue, the car acted up anew and refused to accelerate sufficiently. Worse, the engine trembled and stalled abruptly, causing a following truck to rear-end the car. Edgar and Kathy swear what happened to them along Pioneer Street was not due to driver error. They claimed they had been driving both automatic and manual transmission cars for as long as 20 years, with spotless records in the traffic police logs. And anyone in their right mind would never stop in the middle of a passing maneuver, Kathy stressed. The couple took their arguments to the Department of Trade and Industry. But after several meetings there, Kathy recently told the Inquirer that they gave up their case. “It’s just going to take very long, knowing the justice system here.” Out of one delayed acceleration problem, and into another-this time involving the wheels of justice. What can we say?
February 2008 Archives
By Andre Palma Philippine Daily Inquirer THE 2006 launch of the 8th generation Civic meant a lot of things for many people. For Honda the car made a statement that a product that grows up can still be fun to drive. To the competition, a benchmark was again be set for the tricky compact sedan market. Everyday motorists got a bigger car, with an efficient engine and styling that lived up to the times. For some of us though, a new Civic only meant one thing. While 90 percent of the population will consider the Honda Civic as an entry-level sedan that seats five comfortably and does the daily commute without fussing or missing a beat, smaller niches in the market sees it otherwise. Another nine percent see this car as a blank canvas, a car that allows them to express their individuality and passion for tinkering with cars. Tragedies in personal expression can be seen rolling the streets of Manila on a daily basis, festooned with every conceivable aftermarket trinket and bauble. The remaining one percent, see the Civic for what it really is. If you’ve strapped on a helmet, pulled on gloves and laced up driving boots in the last 15 years of so, there is a large chance you’ve jumped into some make or model of the Civic and driven it in competition. The car’s decent basic DNA is likely the reason for such wide acceptance in the motor sport community. Relatively cheap to procure, easy to prepare, blessed with a decent chassis and available with engines that revved until most others turned blue -- choosing a Civic as the basis for a race car seemed almost default. Yet no matter how prepared and modified your Civic was, there was one particular model that every single one of us wanted: one that was built differently from the rest, one that could only be had, in limited numbers from abroad. Since 1997, the Civic Type R has been the Civic to have. Meaner and leaner than the average member of the flock, these were cars built from standard daily commuters and finished as road racers for the masses. With a reinforced and stiffened chassis, suspension settings for a more spirited nature and an engine so taut and able, these hatches finished in championship white just screamed low-key, affordable performance. Underdog Three generations later, the underdog of the automotive performance world is back. In March of last year, the Japanese domestic market saw the release of another Civic Type R. For the first time available in the very same four-door configuration we have here on Philippine shores, the notion of a local release is tantalizing indeed. One need but look at the claimed performance numbers to see just how different a machine the Civic Type R is from the ordinary family sedan. At the heart of the Type R is a factory-tuned K20A engine, a 2.0-liter inline four cylinder that is rated at 220 bhp and 220 Nm of torque. In typical Honda fashion, most of the power and pull is seen in the later end of the rpm range, upward of 8,000 rpm for horsepower and 6,000 rpm for torque. Six-speed, close ratio manual gearboxes come standard with a limited slip differential. Braking is upgraded by four-piston Brembo calipers. Interesting that the already stiff chassis of the 8th Generation Civic is further made rigid by over 50 percent. A bespoke body kit and Recaro interiors are standard fare also. Think of the current Type R as a race car that seats five. Bright beacon Another bright beacon on the horizon is the fact that another Southeast Asian market is being supplied with the Civic Type R. Malaysia gets exactly the same unit as Japan and has been enjoying the signature, free-revving wail of the Type R since March last year. Contacts in Honda Philippines are noncommittal about a Philippine release of the Civic Type R. Some people I've talked to cite the fact that a left-hand-drive version of this car is not made in Japan and therefore poses the largest hurdle to a local release. Rumor mills further muddle the situation as the US market, which drives on the same side of the road as us, might get this car in the near future. The size of their market allows for such special dispensation from the guys at Tochigi Research and Development. All we can do is to continue waiting and hoping. This is a car that is indeed worth the wait.
By Andre Palma Philippine Daily Inquirer ONCE in a while, it is great to suspend all manner of practical thinking. Every day it seems like a necessity to pinch pennies, to think of long-term feasibility and the function of the things we use. Testing cars cannot be oblivious of this frugal frame of mind. The emphasis in media on fuel efficiency, cargo capacity and value for money deals is a clear indication of the motoring public’s clamor for ways to help reduce the cost of the way they motor. All this focus on economy can get to be tiring in all honesty. One can only suspend their love and enthusiasm for the automobile so much. Thank heavens then for cars that are expressions of striking design, inspired engineering and passion for the open road. Thank heavens for cars like the BMW Z4 Coupé. It was more than two years ago, at the 2005 Tokyo Motor show that the preproduction model version of this hard-topped Z4 caught my eye. Bathed in a flat gray hue that added more drama to the already theatrical flame-like Chris Bangle design, this was a car that just seemed to absorb light, process it and exude attention as the by-product. Noticeable because of its classic roadster stance interpreted in a theme that is sometimes described as way ahead of its time, the Z4 Coupé is a powerful piece of automotive sculpture. Add to that the long hood, a roofline and hind shoulders that are among the most conspicuous in recent automotive design and one can imagine the flash crazed, digital paparazzi carnival that pitched tent right next to the BMW pavilion for the duration of that show. It is another matter altogether if the photographers taking the pictures liked the intense design or not. The time behind the wheel one spends in this coupé is influenced by a lot of things. Immediately noticeable is the 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. Good for 260 bhp and 315 Nm of torque, this powerplant is sufficient enough for sub six second sprints to 100 kph. Those who want more conviction under the hood will have to choose the M Coupé version. The larger 3.2-liter straight-six that comes with the M ups output to 340 bhp, a delicious 365 Nm torque figure and the ability to break the legal speed limit with much less effort. The sporting quality of this version of the Z4 is reinforced, literally, by the addition of a fixed roof. Chassis stiffness, a quality needed for sharp handling, is really quite absent in the convertible. Fifty-fifty split weight balance adds predictable, almost point and shoot handling of the 1,400-kg coupé’s mass. Additional digital driver aids in braking, stability and traction control are welcome extras in a package that really can be thrown around. It is sad though that we don’t have the roads that give this kind of driving machine justice. Signature BMW ride stiffness, having much to the suspension setting and the choice of run-flat tires, may not appeal to all. Road feel is undeniably present, bumps and imperfections on the road are consistently relayed to the driver. In moments of spirited driving, such feedback is critical but driving lazily around the less than perfect streets of Manila can become a bit tiring.After all that has been said, the BMW Z4 Coupé is really made for moments that the striking design and the respectable dynamics can be used to their fullest. Easily nine out of 10 times that we use a car, we wish we had something a little smaller, a whole lot more fuel efficient and something that just motors on in anonymity. There are those few times that we need cars that can live up to the demands of both traveling and arriving. If only life were a series of everyday out of town parties at country clubs nestled in the mountains, surrounded by ribbons of undulating, twisty tarmac. If that’s what your monthly calendar looks like, then by all means the Z4 Coupé makes a wonderful candidate to add to your personal stable of cars. Those of us have more mundane things to do, well -- we can dream, can’t we?
By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer (First of two parts) INQUIRER MOTORING receives letters and phone calls from readers relating their casa (manufacturers’ service center) horror stories from time to time. Usually, it’s the complainants’ word against the car manufacturer. In the hope that our motoring public (and other car manufacturers, as well) would pick up a few lessons from these “sob stories,” we will be printing them -- sans real name and company name of the parties involved, of course. The aberrant alternator Adela dela Cruz (not her real name) relates that her five-year-old, 2-liter 4x4 A/T SUV engine suddenly turned off and wouldn’t restart. Thinking that her two-year-old battery conked out, Dela Cruz changed it. To her dismay, the battery indicator, let alone the engine, still wouldn’t turn on. Dela Cruz brought her vehicle to the casa and was given a quotation of P42,566 to cover the cost of the labor and parts for replacing what the shop said was a problem involving the entire alternator assembly The technical department explained that the vehicle’s alternator assembly malfunctioned. She was told that since the warranty had lapsed, she had no choice but to shoulder the cost. She later found out that the alternator wouldn’t malfunction without a cause. “We tried to gather information from friends and friends of friends who owned the same car model, and true enough, from inside sources, they had had several complaints that year involving the same parts,” she said. In an e-mail to Inquirer Motoring, she wrote that the cause of the problem was the defective design or placement of the alternator -- the reason the new model’s design had been changed. She added that what the other owners did with those that had the same problems fixed by the casa was to put an insulator to merely delay its inevitable malfunction. Dela Cruz added that the engine manufacturer claimed “a four-year lifespan of an alternator assembly was acceptable and normal.” She retorted that her other SUV, which was already 10 years old, still had its original alternator running well and never replaced, and her friend’s SUV, also 10 years old, still had its original alternator assembly intact. Dela Cruz lamented that she has had to resort to the media to air her complaints, as her calls to the Department of Trade and Industry consumer complaint hotlines and her e-mails to DTI NCR have never gotten a response or even an acknowledgment. Hot under the hood Another complaint comes from an owner of an overheating eight-year-old mini SUV (odometer reading: 55,000 km). After driving it into the casa for the routine 55,000-km checkup and to have the overheating fixed, she was informed by the customer service staff that the additional work would cost P78,700. Included in the cost was the replacement of the front shock absorbers, and some other work which she claimed the same casa had already completed last year. She recalled that her bill reached over P40,000 last year for such replacements. She was then faxed a revised quote, deleting the cost of the front shock absorbers, reducing the total additional cost to just over P64,000. By then, however, she said she was already becoming suspicious, so she informed the casa’s customer service via SMS to hold all the work for her SUV, for which she received an SMS (text) confirmation. A friend recommended another service center in the Alabang area. There, she got a quote of P14,530 for the radiator assembly replacement, compared to the casa’s P37,783.22 charge for the same work. She made an appointment to bring her car in first thing in the morning the following day. The Alabang shop’s customer service representative explained the work they did on her SUV, showed her the replaced radiator and the new one they installed. She was told that radiators had an average life span of four years. Hers lasted almost eight years. She was also told that her front and rear shocks, indeed, needed to be replaced. “Considering I just drove 10,000 km in the 12 months since the shocks were replaced -- I cannot understand how I could have busted my shocks that quickly unless I got substandard, defective shock absorbers in the first place. And how can I get substandard parts from the casa. Am I not paying premium just to make sure I do not get ripped off?” she asked. Her final bill at the Alabang service center, which included radiator, coolant, hose clamp, shop materials, labor with pressure test and with VAT included was P8,548.59. The entire radiator assembly didn’t need to be replaced, after all. This complainant sent Inquirer Motoring the detailed list of parts quotations from both the casa and the Alabang service center. Both claimed they were using original parts.
By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer THEY say the best measure of a product or service’s quality is its ability to thrive even when its competitors are having a tough time. And such is evident in a highly competitive market as the automotive industry, where consumer loyalty can be retained or swayed as swiftly as car manufacturers can produce new vehicle models. Honda Cars Philippines Inc., however, has two models that prove that when you hit the bull’s eye of your target market, loyalty and consequently continued sales are almost always assured despite the influx of competitor models. The Honda Civic has captured a 63-percent market share of the compact class sedan, while the CR-V has gained a 25-percent share in its class. The two vehicles have bolstered HCPI’s No. 2 position in the automotive industry. In a statement released by HCPI citing Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (Campi) report, Honda led the passenger segment in January with a 35-percent market share. HCPI sold 1,045 units in January out of the total passenger car unit sales of 2,961.Arnel Doria, HCPI VP for marketing, said that with continued positive sales trend, Honda hopes to significantly contribute to Campi’s 125,000-unit year-end industry sales target. HCPI registered a 65-percent increase over the same period in 2007. Doria pointed out that despite the 23-percent downtrend in the passenger car market compared to the December 2007 performance, Honda even managed to post a 19-percent growth. Industry historical trends show that the industry normally experiences a sales slump at the beginning of every year due to advanced demands in December when buyers take advantage of aggressive year-end promotions.Honda credits its passenger cars dominance with its iconic Civic model, which has registered a 14,000-unit accumulated sales since its introduction in April 2006. Mirroring buyers’ approval, various industry awards have been heaped on the Civic for its superior engine performance, fuel economy, dynamic styling and overall value. Overall, the Civic emerged as one of the top three best-selling models in 2007. The CR-V is also credited by HCPI as adding a significant contribution in sustaining its position with 431 unit sales.
By Andre Palma Philippine Daily Inquirer THE NEW Toyota Corolla is out. Much awaited by the public and the rest of the industry, it is rather curious that a product of this importance hasn’t broken cover with the fanfare and fuss expected of such an established model. Roughly 30 million Corollas, in 10 iterations, sold over 42 years is a lot to shout about. The relative silence over the tenth generation launch says so much. This is a car that will definitely find itself in the garages of many Filipino families. There are those out there who will buy a Toyota Corolla, sight unseen, just on blind brand loyalty. You cannot really fault these faithful, over the years several of the past versions of this car have really been reliable, value for money automobiles. Two models -- the KE7x series and the AE8x series, both of the ’80s -- were actually fun to drive. Add to that the inexpensive nature of Corolla parts and you can see why many are still hooked. Pending a test drive of the 10th Generation Corolla, a definitive verdict cannot be laid down. Although, a quick read of the specification sheet will show that very little has mechanically changed from the previous 2001-on model. Engines in the range are 1.8-liter and 1.6-liter VVT-i units similar to the Corolla it is replacing. Declared power outputs are down but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A top of the line 1.8-liter version will come with 132 bhp and 170 Nm of torque while the run of the mill 1.6-liter delivers 109 bhp and a 145 Nm torque figure. It looks like the new Corolla is driving toward a more fuel-efficient, economical end. Transmission choices are the usual 4-speed automatic and a 5-speed manual; the bigger engine again only coming in a slush box. Suspensions don’t change dramatically either with independent front and rear torsion bar designs still factory specified. Additional curb weight can be found on the new Corolla and good money says this extra heft went into further insulating the passenger cabin from the road. It seems that the factors that make up this Corolla point in an obvious general direction. This isn’t going to be a pocket rocket by any stretch of the imagination. Why hasn’t Toyota stepped into the compact sedan ring with a more potent, reengineered product then? With a fresh, revitalized Civic already in the market and an intriguing Lancer soon inbound, why has Toyota seemingly dropped the ball? There is an answer. This lackluster execution of the iconic Corolla model is due to the fact that it does not play a large part in the Toyota plan for worldwide auto sales domination anymore. It seems while other manufacturers still decide to pour resources into the compact sedan segment, Toyota is hedging its bets elsewhere. In the Philippine market, the Vios subcompact and the Innova AUV represent the leading edge. In more industrialized markets, hybrids and diesel compact two-box designs carry the fight. In the end, the world’s volume leading compact sedan has to deal with the realities of a maturing market. In fact, a few Tokyo Motor shows ago, pundits from foreign media and competing manufacturers were wondering if there was actually going to be a 10th Generation Corolla. The loss of a compact sedan in the Toyota lineup was nothing to panic about in their minds. Toyota’s inevitable rise to one day become the world’s largest vehicle manufacturer was not hinged on this model. Things got so quiet that a few media outlets actually printed eulogies of this model and spoke fondly of the product’s landmark run. Toyota has proven all of us who wrote off this car as wrong. They will contest the segment with a car that they believe is sufficient to the needs of those who are looking for an entry-level family sedan. Arguing the point with them will be futile anyway. None of what’s been written in this column today is going to dissuade the common Filipino motorist from buying new Corollas, even if there are better driving or technologically superior competing products out in the market as we speak for less money. The Corolla’s brand strength is such, that regardless of fault, this car will sell.
By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer PASSENGER cars still take the backseat when it comes to Filipino motorists’ choice of vehicles. Although passenger car sales showed almost a 30-percent improvement in January compared to the same period last year, and commercial vehicles grew 12 percent for the same period, overall sales of commercial vehicles continue to dominate overall market sales with an almost 70-percent market share. Carmakers see this trend continuing for the year, as revealed in a statement by Elizabeth Lee, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc (Campi). The sales trend was shown in the January 2008 auto industry vehicles sales released to the press by the Campi Feb. 8. The commercial vehicle segment is the largest category in the market. New models introduced last year boosted sales for January with total first month sale of 5,844 units. Campi forecast strong sales in this segment to continue in the coming months. Commercial vehicles include multipurpose vehicles such as AUVs (Asian utility vehicles), pickups, vans, compact wagons or compact sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and full-sized SUVs. Lee said that space is a good consideration for buyers as well. “Pinoy buyers are smart and well-informed and would make the best purchase choices based on value for money and utility in exchange for their hard earned money,” Lee said in a phone interview. Of the CVs, Lee cited AUVs, pickups, vans and compact wagons as the most popular. She said that growth of the sales rests on the back of these popular vehicles. Campi also cited sales of LCVs (light commercial vehicles) of which pickups, vans, compact and full-sized SUVs belong to, showed an overall growth of 20 percent compared to the same period last year sustained by the influx of new models. Most popular vehicles CVs are the most popular vehicles both due to their inherent versatility and utility. You can use them both for business and personal use. It answers purchase requirements of most buyers regarding value for money for dual or multipurpose use. This is validated by the sales figures and growth figures especially for the light commercial vehicle segment which comprise of pickups, vans and car wagons. Preferred by big families Toyota Philippines' public relations officer Elijah Marcial told the Inquirer that the car manufacturer’s bulk of commercial vehicle sales have come from multipurpose vehicles at 42 percent. Marcial surmised that because CVs are bigger, have more capacity and are multipurpose and with more affordable variants, it may seem that multipurpose vehicles (MPVs), which are part of CVs, are preferred particularly by big Filipino families. CVs, she said, could also be used for business. Arlan Reyes, assistant advertising and promotions manager of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp., said SUVs, which are part of commercial vehicles, are patronized because of their “porma” (status symbol) while the rest of the CVs are purely for commercial business use. “Cars are more for personal use while SUVs are more for status symbol,” Reyes says. Another trend had been observed: although overall sales from December 2007 to January 2008 registered a decline overall, this was expected due to the buying “cycle,” wherein December traditionally registered the highest sales. A good sign Lee said the auto industry started this year with a 17-percent increase in January compared to the same period last year. The industry sold a total of 8,808 units in January, which she said is “a good sign for the rest of the year.” Passenger car sales increased by 28.5 percent for January compared to the same period last year. “The robust growth for the passenger car market is seen to continue in the coming months. The new models introduced last year are seeing more positive results translated to sales in the first month of the year,” Lee said.
By Andre Palma Philippine Daily Inquirer I HAVE to admit to cringing when Ford Philippines' Glen Dasig mentioned the word, “Expedition,” over the phone. Admittedly, biases and preconceived notions about certain cars are difficult to suspend, even when one tests them for a living. It is hard to forget a six-month spell, years ago, when this writer had to fuel a first generation 5.4-liter Triton V8 specimen. It felt like personally sponsoring a petroleum company, honestly. At some point, every pump attendant's courtesy smile started looking eerily sinister. It got that bad. It is now two generations later, a long period of time in any process of automotive evolution and even the tamest of cars can change a lot over 10 years. Is the third-generation Expedition any better than the first? Let's just say that the 2008 Ford Expedition experience is generally a familiar one. The first five minutes with the current model Expedition were eventful to say the least. Moments before the SUV was to be released from the dealership, pranksters from an adjacent school threw a perfectly aimed styro cup of an unidentified, mystery goop at the Expedition. Said cocktail bounced off the roof of the SUV, exploded on the windscreen and finished its ballistic path on the truck's massive hood. The smell, moments later, confirmed what was in the cup. The social commentary of that attack speaks volumes on the high-profile public perception of the Expedition. Attention grabbing because of its sheer, impolite size and likely reinforced by a clientele just as discreet, it makes perfect sense why bored teenagers would target this vehicle out of a parking lot crammed with dozens of other cars. Maybe the juvenile delinquents were hoping to score a hit on a politician, a show-biz personality or some important business tycoon? You roll with the consequences of getting noticed big-time, I guess. Maybe that's what security details are for? Behind the wheel of this car, it is logical that lethal engine grunt must come with all the flash, fanfare and fuss. The Expedition's engine numbers border on ludicrous actually, seemingly excessive for whatever road conditions that the Philippines can throw at it. The updated 5.4-liter V8 puts out 300 bhp and almost 500 Nm of torque, making forward acceleration is anything but subtle. The raw engine power is stifled though by the massive weight of the vehicle, two and a half tons when empty and close to three tons with a complement of five adults and cargo. That's heavy in any book.Drivers will still have to deal with the typically uninvolved drive that blankets the large American SUV segment. If a peso could be earned every time the words boat-like and wallowing were used to describe this segment, the BIR would want some part of that action. Forget trying to push aggressively down a twisty segment of tarmac in this car, as it pays a terrible toll to the laws of physics. In traffic, patience is also a critical virtue as the width and height of the Expedition makes it as nimble as an Edsa bus. Slicing and dicing in congestion can be done but it is an accident waiting to happen. The seat from where to enjoy the Expedition the most is that of the passenger's. If space and creature comforts are on top of your automotive wish list, then look no further than this large, leather bound, and power everything interior. Some might find the ride of this super-sized SUV a tad bouncy, but that is something that probably can be solved by changing tires, shocks and springs. For the sake of comfort, this is a solution worth searching for if one is considering spending a lot of time in the rear seats of this Ford.There is a market segment out there that demands a vehicle like the Ford Expedition; there are quite a few on the road. High-profile size and looks, well-known running costs and vague, pliable suspension must be what they look for. These say a lot about the types of people who buy these cars. They know what they want and have the bank balances to stick with their choices, no matter what life throws in their direction.
By Tessa R. Salazar INQUIRER.net AFTER SATISFYING over 32 million owners around the world and undergoing nine "generational" changes, the Toyota Corolla is ready to take another step up in the evolutionary ladder. So, 42 years after the first Corollas came out of the assembly line worldwide, the 10th generation Corolla Altis makes its debut in the Philippines in March. And basing on raw measurements: the overall look can now be described as sportier, but roomier. That seems contradictory at first, but read on and you'll get the picture. It may not look as sporty as the 5-door Corolla Auris hatchback, the one that you will see in Europe and Japan, but at least the 10th generation Altis is sportier than its local predecessors. It is longer, wider and with an about-to-pounce lower stance than the current model, albeit its platform (the 1.6- and 1.8-liter) are the same. With some modifications in suspension, steering and key engine parts, it shows new overall dimensions: length of 4,540 mm (from 4,530), width of 1,760 mm (from 1,705), and height of 1,465 mm (from 1,480). It now has a wider footprint as well: 1,520 mm at the front from the previous 1,480, and the rear at 1,525 mm from 1,460. Surprisingly, reduced external measurements have resulted in a more spacious interior: length of 1,890 mm (from 1,850); width of 1,450 mm (from 1,380). The exception here is the interior height, which has been slightly reduced (1,195 mm from 1,230). Still, Toyota designers have sworn that they made sure the headroom at the front and rear have not been sacrificed. Performance-wise, the new Altis promises more excitement for the driver. From hydraulic steering, the 10th-generation Altis features electric power steering. EPS is supposed to make sharp turns on narrow streets easier. All grades of the new Corolla Altis have as standard the anti-lock brake system and airbags. The current available entry model J Grade has no ABS, and only a driver's airbag. All the automatic transmissions come with super ECT (electronic controlled transmission). It is programmed to utilize the best gear in relation to the road conditions. This feature in the current model is only available in the 1.8 variant. All automatic models have multi-mode transmission (sequential transmission), with 4-speed gate-type automatic transmission (the multimode sequential) is available in the 1.8 V-grade. The new full-model change Altis starts with 15-inch rims, with the 16-inch rims for the high grade. The current entry level and midgrade variants have 14- and 15-inch rims, respectively, for the high grade. The new Altis has three grades, two engines and five variants: The high-end V grade in 1.8- and 1.6-liter automatic transmission, the G grade at 1.6-liter automatic and manual transmissions, and the entry level E grade at 1.6-liter manual transmission. Color options are gray metallic, medium silver metallic, silver metallic, beige metallic, black mica and super white. It features 8-way power seats that can be adjusted down to the millimeter, combined with the tilt and telescopic steering. It has steering switches for control for the audio system and multi-information display (MID). The MID shows current and average fuel consumption, cruising range, average speed, elapsed time and fuel unit changeover. The V-grade has a DOT matrix feature for the MID for the standard reminders. It has a two-level glove box, drink holders for the front and rear passengers, and as much as 21 separate storage compartments placed throughout the cabin. Trunk spaces guarantee the storage of as much as four golf bags, which can be maximized further if 60:40 split rear seats are folded completely. The 4-cylinder, in-line 16-valve DOHC VVT-i engine offers maximum output of 132 ps/6,000 rpm and maximum torque of 170Nm/4,200 rpm for the 1.8-liter variant. While the 1.6-liter variant offers maximum output of 109 ps/6,000 rpm and maximum torque of 145 Nm/4,400 rpm. MacPherson Strut Type front suspension and rear torsion beams are implemented for better handling stability and driving comfort. Sporty 10-spoke 16-inch alloy wheel design is available for the V-grade while 7-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels are available for the G and E grades. Active safety features include Antilock Brake System with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, combined with the 15-inch front and rear disk brakes for better braking response. Passive safety features include standard Toyota Global Outstanding Assessment (GOA) body structure, dual SRS airbags (for V-grade), and Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) Concept front seats. The 2008 Corolla Altis will be available in the 26 Toyota dealerships by March. In its 42-year history, the Corolla has been the sedan of choice for 32 million owners in over 140 countries. In the Philippines, the Corolla was one of Toyota's first models to be sold. It has become one of the country's biggest-selling vehicles, with over 170,000 units sold since 1989. The Corolla is manufactured in 16 countries.
By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer THE AUTOMOTIVE buzz last week was that US automaker General Motors Corp.'s "solid sales growth" gave it a slim lead over Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp. in 2007 global vehicle sales, allowing it to keep its top spot for the 77th year. GM sold 9,369,524 vehicles last year -- a measly lead of 3,000 over Toyota's 9.366 million vehicles sold last year. Automotive business analysts are expecting a more intense rivalry this year as the two compete for emerging markets like China and India. But the No. 2 placer, it seems, isn't complaining. Associated Press reported that despite the media interest in the rivalry, Toyota said it was not interested in the numbers game, and has even expressed worries about a possible backlash reminiscent of the "Japan-bashing" in the 1980s and '90s should they dethrone GM in its home turf, the United States. Toyota Motors Philippines First Vice President for Marketing and Sales Daniel Isla said that ever since the issue of being No. 1 worldwide started playing in pundits' minds, the mandate of Toyota to its local distributors has been not to focus on quantity, but to continue producing quality cars and good customer service. Isla stressed that there has been no pressure from headquarters to take the top spot, but they "gave us specific targets and figures for market share. It doesn't matter to TMC what rank we're in as long as we're able to meet our targets." He added: "They always tell us to be humble in any achievement. They don't want fanfare that we're inching closer to GM. The mother company is so quiet about it." Isla said that no matter what global rank Toyota ends up in, it wouldn't have much of an effect in the local auto market. GM Philippines' local bestseller in 2007 was the Aveo sedan, followed by the Optra and Spark. GM could not be reached for comment as of press time. Toyota's Innova remains the top seller of all vehicles sold in the country. In 2007, the top three Toyota vehicles sold were Innova (10,544 units), Vios (8,717) and Fortuner (7,216). Analysts are expecting Ford and GM to be more competitive with the dollar's devaluation relative to most major world currencies. Some are also wondering whether the distinction of being the world's automotive capital would still belong to Detroit in the near future.