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‘We have to change the mindset of the consumer’

Mr. Delgado delivers a speech following EVOxTerra’s announcement as Hongqi country distributor.

Interview by Kap Maceda Aguila

WHEN EV BRAND Weltmeister (WM) was launched here in July of last year, WM Motor Philippines President Rashid Delgado sat down with “Velocity” and stressed how the company effectively became the “first-ever full-play electric vehicle distributor outside of China.” Last week, that team added another Chinese brand to its portfolio. FAW Group, based in Changchun, Jilin, appointed EVOxTerra, Inc. (with Mr. Delgado as its president) as the country distributor of its luxury automotive marque Hongqi. With WM now also being managed by EVOxTerra, we talk strategy, growth ambitions, and more with Mr. Delgado.

VELOCITY: What’s the growth plan for Hongqi vis-à-vis Weltmeister (WM)? What’s the strategy in terms of growing the brand’s footprint? Are you looking at other regions of the country?

RASHID DELGADO: Obviously, these are two separate brands, two separate companies. We have two different strategies for both even if they’re both under the EVOxTerra umbrella.

Oh, so WM also falls under the company?

Yes, but it’s handled as a completely separate brand. Of course, we also fully intend to grow the WM network as well. But it’s a fully EV (electric vehicle)-only brand with a more limited portfolio of models, whereas Hongqi is a much more established brand with a wider portfolio of products — both ICE (internal combustion engine)- and battery-powered. So we feel that, you know, as far as Hongqi is concerned, there’s a bigger opportunity to go wider in reach.

Meaning more dealerships?

More dealerships because, at least in this transition period when we’re still living in an ICE world. We’re introducing an EV but not 100% of consumers are interested in EVs yet. In the meantime, we want to offer both in the Hongqi brand. That way, we can build the brand here in the Philippines. And then as we gradually transition to full EV, then we can have greater impact. So Hongqi has a slightly different strategy in that sense, because Hongqi has a much wider portfolio to offer right now.

Will the Hongqi facility you intend to open in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) be a 3S one?

That is going to be just a showroom. It’s also in the heart of BGC, and we’re just in the design and construction phase right now. We’re hoping to launch that by, hopefully, the first half of this year by June or July. After-sales will actually be done here (the TDG facility in Western Bicutan, Taguig). Our vision for this facility will be brand agnostic as a center of excellence not only for EVs, but for ICE vehicles. Primarily, our long-term goal is to build a center of excellence for EVs and EV after-sales, to be able to provide service and support to not only our brands but potentially other brands which may not have a strong after-sales component.

Are you already in discussion with dealer groups as far as Hongqi is concerned?

Yes we are. Hongqi itself is also very supportive. They’ve been on the ground here as well, reaching out to various interested dealership groups, and our team as well has made contact. We already have plans in place for the dealership network to grow.

Can you reveal at least which locations you’re looking at?

We want to be strategic about it. I think our flagship location in BGC will be able to support a big chunk of Metro Manila, but we may look at other strategic locations to widen the reach within Metro Manila. Then for dealerships groups, we’re potentially looking at the North, and also in the South of Manila, and of course Visayas and Mindanao. That would be the strategic footprint we’re looking at.

Is there a number that you’ve arrived at for the first year of operations?

We’re aiming for one or two at the minimum, in addition to the BGC showroom.

A lot of brands are still challenged with regard to supply. What’s the outlook for Hongqi?

I think that’s one of the benefits of working with a very established group like FAW. Hongqi is the flagship brand of their group. They have committed to us that they prioritize the Hongqi brand. As far as production capabilities and supplies go, they’ve assured us that we have their full backing. So that hasn’t been raised as a concern.

As you correctly mentioned, the country’s charging infrastructure is still quite a ways from being ideal, but studies also show that up to 90% of EV owners actually do their charging at home. So, I guess that’s also good news for your electric Hongqi and WM offerings.

Exactly. We have to change the mindset of the consumer. They don’t have to charge the car at a gas station. They can charge at home, they can charge in an office, and that will comprise the bulk of their charging. So, in other words, you just charge wherever you can park the car. And by doing so you’ll always have a full charge. That’s the kind of change in mindset we’re hoping Filipinos will have, to adopt a different lifestyle. That’s why we’re calling our EV center here our lifestyle center because it is about changing lives.

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