You can al­ways tell when a new car model is ar­riv­ing

Business World - - MOTORING - VER­NON B. SARNE

To be in­formed about the lat­est car in­tro­duc­tions, con­sumers es­sen­tially rely on ad­ver­tise­ments. The prob­lem is that, for many of these new ve­hi­cles, the lo­cal dis­trib­u­tors with­hold the in­for­ma­tion up to the very last minute — usu­ally af­ter the out­go­ing model has sold out its in­ven­tory.

So what hap­pens is that you buy a car only to find out a week later that a com­pet­ing model from a ri­val brand — cer­tainly fresher and def­i­nitely more de­sir­able — is about to be launched in the mar­ket. Of course it’s too late to re­gret your pur­chase. No car dealer would take back a ve­hi­cle even with the low­est of mileage. You’re now stuck, for the next four years, with a ve­hi­cle you know will soon be the sec­ond-coolest (at best) model in its class. How to avoid this? Well, you can look for other signs that a new model is join­ing the ve­hi­cle seg­ment you’re look­ing into. Ide­ally, the best source would be the mo­tor­ing press. But in most cases, we also get our facts and ver­ify them with the car com­pa­nies. But like I said, these com­pa­nies will never pub­li­cize the im­mi­nent ar­rival of a new model un­less they’ve un­loaded the last unit of the model’s pre­de­ces­sor in their stock. And in those rare in­stances that we stum­ble upon the tightly guarded news from a third party, fat chance the dis­trib­u­tor would con­firm it. More of­ten than not — even when they do con­firm the ru­mors — they’d call an em­bargo (a re­quest for the non-pub­li­ca­tion of priv­i­leged in­for­ma­tion un­til fur­ther no­tice). Most times, jour­nal­ists have no choice but to com­ply; if we don’t, we could be taken off the me­dia list or be cut from the of­fi­cial sup­ply of sto­ries.

In my case, when a story tip lands on my lap and the source is cred­i­ble, I ask around but not with com­pany ex­ec­u­tives who are likely to ca­jole me into post­pon­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of the ar­ti­cle. I also read cer­tain prod­uct move­ments in the mar­ket.

One sign I’ve proven to be ex­tremely de­pend­able in an­tic­i­pat­ing the en­try of a new model is this: When the brand or its main com­pe­ti­tion starts heav­ily pro­mot­ing its prod­uct that is be­ing re­placed by or is do­ing bat­tle with the com­ing ve­hi­cle. The pro­mo­tion could come in the form of big dis­counts or a new vari­ant (even if said vari­ant features very mi­nor changes). The goal is to sell out the ex­ist­ing units of the cur­rent model (in the case of the brand that is launch­ing the new model), or pre­empt the other brand’s launch and steal as many po­ten­tial buy­ers as pos­si­ble (in the case of the com­peti­tors).

I’ll give you an ex­am­ple. In Oc­to­ber, Toy­ota Mo­tor Philip­pines an­nounced a new vari­ant of the Avanza MPV called Veloz. A month later, the com­pany sent an­other press re­lease, this time for a new vari­ant of the big­ger In­nova MPV called Tour­ing Sport. Both vari­ants boast mostly cos­metic up­grades, but I guar­an­tee you these tweaks are com­pelling enough for MPV shop­pers — enough to com­pletely dis­tract them from the in­creas­ingly loud buzz that Mit­subishi Mo­tors Philip­pines is re­leas­ing an all-new mul­ti­pur­pose ve­hi­cle (the Xpan­der) in the first quar­ter of next year.

Trust me, by the time Mit­subishi’s mar­ket­ing cam­paign for the Xpan­der’s in­tro­duc­tion is in full swing, many of its tar­get buy­ers will have al­ready bought ei­ther an Avanza or an In­nova.

Con­versely, if an au­tomaker is ag­gres­sively sell­ing a long-in-the-tooth model with at­trac­tive dis­counts for sev­eral months in suc­ces­sion, you can al­most be sure that the ap­pear­ance of the model’s suc­ces­sor is just around the cor­ner.

If my the­ory is cor­rect, we’re about to see fan­tas­tic pro­mos and col­or­ful new vari­ants in the mid­size SUV seg­ment in the com­ing months. That’s be­cause, ac­cord­ing to a source, Nissan Philip­pines is bring­ing in its Navara- based SUV in 2018. The seg­ment in ques­tion is a hotly con­tested one, with such strong con­tenders as the Chevrolet Trail­blazer, the Ford Ever­est, the Isuzu Mu-X, the Mit­subishi Mon­tero Sport and the Toy­ota For­tuner.

If you start see­ing mar­ket­ing cam­paigns for these ve­hi­cles at the start of next year, you al­ready know why. And, if you’re in the mar­ket for a new mid­size SUV, you can then eval­u­ate your choices more knowl­edge­ably.

Now, if you’re the type of car buyer who never ag­o­nizes over a car choice — if you can eas­ily make up your mind and if you never look back — get that ve­hi­cle you’ve been eye­ing and use it in good health. Life’s too short to worry about up­com­ing new mod­els any­way.

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