Building a brand isn’t always easy. It gets difficult when you’re trying to build a relatively new brand in a market that is teeming with established brands. And it gets even more difficult when your brand is unwittingly dragged into a stigma created by another unrelated product.
Such is the predicament being faced by the Philippine distributor of BAIC Automotive Group Co., Ltd. Building a Chinese car brand is already a challenging endeavor but building the brand in a downtrend economy while eradicating the unsavory reputation previously created by some unscrupulous local distributors of other Chinese vehicles is an even more daunting task. But Bayan Automotive Industries Corporation (Bayan Auto) is hopeful that its latest products will help stem the tide.
Building Anything Isn’t Cheap
Bayan Auto is fully invested in building the BAIC brand. They initially relied on the BAIC M20, MZ40 and MZ45 multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) as the building blocks to create a brand image of “value for money” and it worked. These 3-row MPVs attracted Filipino families with their versatility, reliability and fuel economy. Soon,
BAIC dealerships began sprouting in the south and word-of-mouth advertising came from satisfied customers. Even the flagship dealership in Makati took on a new look.
But their work was only beginning. As the BAIC customer base begins to grow, the customers also began to go upmarket. Bayan Auto responded tactfully with its upgraded 3-row MPV – the M50S, and its first crossover sport utility vehicle (SUV) – the BJ20.
To emphasize the improved power and upgraded features of these new models, Bayan Auto took a select group of motoring journalists,including yours truly, to a drive up to Baguio City and a brief overnight stay at the Country Club. We can’t say no to that.
Brand Awareness Influences Customers
Riding on the market acceptance of the M20 and the brand awareness it created, Bayan Auto introduced the M50S as the more luxurious and upmarket BAIC MPV. With three available “Luxury” variants in 7- and 8-seat configurations, the M50S offers a more spacious interior with increased legroom for all three rows, a taller headroom, improved ergonomics, and an upgraded infotainment system. At 2,790 millimeters, the M50S offers the longest wheelbase in its class, which improves overall ride quality. Its 5.5-meter turning radius makes driving around the narrow Baguio City streets a breeze, albeit a cool one.
Its wider 1,420mm front track and 1,441mm rear track offers improved stability and better handling to boost driving confidence, especially when traversing the zigzags up and down the Summer Capital. Its 1.5-liter inline 4-cylinder gasoline engine features double overhead camshafts (DOHC), 16 valves and a Dual Variable Valve Timing (DVVT) to produce 114 horses and 150 Newton-meters of torque that enables the M50S to reach a claimed top speed of 150 kph, while returning 14.7 kilometers per liter and lowering emissions to Euro 5 levels. In other words, the M50S is not only good for the Family Budget, it’s also good for Mother Nature.
Better Alignment Improves Cashflow
Bayan Auto wisely focused on family-oriented vehicles with its product line of affordable 3-row MPVs but they did not turn a blind eye on the other emerging market sales leader – the crossover SUV. They are betting that their new BJ20 will change the public perception of BAIC and entice more buyers into their showrooms. Judging by its looks and our high-speed drive over the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), we think they’re on target to improve their finances as well. We honestly think that the BJ20’s features will compel buyers to look past its over-One-Million-Peso price tag.
Underneath the front hood is a transverse-mounted turbocharged 1.5-liter DOHC 16-valve MIVEC-enhanced inline-4 Euro 5 engine that delivers 134 hp at 6,000 rpm and 210 Nm of torque between 2,000 to 4,500 rpm to the front wheels. On TPLEX, those horses can propel the BJ20 to an indicated 170 kph while that prodigious amount of torque propels this 1,460-kilogram crossover up steep inclines and mountain roads without breaking a sweat. Its seamless Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT) provides smooth stepless shifting, selecting the right gear ratio for the right speed and situation.
With a rated fuel economy of 13.15 kilometers per liter, we zoomed by gas stations as easily as we passed lumbering full-sized SUVs hogging the fast lane. We bet that will do wonders for anybody’s bottom line.
Better Advertisements Increase Clientele
As an upscale model, BAIC hopes to attract a different, more up-market clientele with the BJ20. Thus, this crossover is loaded with features that are normally found on premium luxury vehicles costing more than twice as much. The Standard and Luxury variants of the BJ20 rolls on 18-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels shod with meaty 225/55-R18 rubber for increased grip and improved appearance. The boxy 5-door mini SUV body is adorned with over-fenders that are color-coordinated with the bumpers that lends a tough and rugged appearance. It looks like a baby Hummer or a smaller FJ Cruiser.
The front is adorned with a 5-section grill and two high-intensity discharge (HID) Xenon headlamps topped with eyebrow-like daylight running lights (DRL) and retractable headlamp spray washers. While the front gives a rugged, almost robot-like appearance, the rear provides a dab of elegance with LED ta il lamps and dual exhaust outlets that look like they belong on an Aston Martin. Inside, the occupants are pampered with rich leather seats, a quiet spacious interior, high tech gadgets, and supreme comfort. With its unique and modern design, we won’t be surprised if the BJ20 gets cast in the next “Transformers” movie, or a Chinese version, at least. That would be a pretty neat product placement.
Businesses Always Involve Communication
Our drive to Baguio City was Bayan Auto’s initial efforts to communicate to the motoring press and to the public about their new products and the more aggressive direction they’re taking. They took another set of journalists to Tagaytay City the day after our drive, and are planning to conduct more media drives after the company’s participation in the Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS) that will be held on October 24-28, 2018 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. BAIC is aggressively pushing their new products to gain more market acceptance here in the Philippines.
“Money talks”, as the saying goes, and to this end, BAIC does not disappoint. Both of these new models are priced right. The BAIC M50S, which is priced at P638,000 for the Luxury variant and P668,000 for the Ultra Luxury version, provides an immediate return on investment (ROI) of a reliable, affordable and economical rear-drive 3-row family MPV, albeit in a more upscale outfit. Despite breaching the One-Million-Peso price point, the BAIC BJ20 still offers unbeatable value-for-money at P1.148M for the Standard model and P1.288M for the Luxury variant, especially with all the technical and aesthetic features that improve safety, performance, appearance, comfort, convenience, fuel economy, and dependability.
But don’t just take our word for it. Book a test drive with your nearest BAIC dealer or go to baicphilippines.com and see for yourself. We guarantee that you’ll find yourself trying to think of other ways to define the “B.A.I.C.” acronym before, during, and after the test drive, just like we did. Buy An Intelligent Car? That’s just the tip of the iceberg, my friend…