Past and Cu­ri­ous

Pi­o­neer deal­ers and the cars they sold

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents - WORDS BY RICHARD WIL­HELM B. RAGODON

In De­cem­ber 1900, the US Army Sig­nal Corps brought in a num­ber of Woods Elec­tric cars from Chicago to the coun­try for use as ser­vice util­ity ve­hi­cles. These were the first “horse­less car­riages” to ply our roads; it would be fair to as­sume that Filipinos back then prob­a­bly had mis­giv­ings about its safety and ease of use.

Soon af­ter, sev­eral trad­ing and hard­ware com­pa­nies be­gan im­port­ing and sell­ing elec­tric-, steam-, and petrol-pow­ered ve­hi­cles. Let’s take a look at their his­to­ries.

Orig­i­nally a bro­ker­age com­pany in 1899, Er­langer and Galinger ex­panded to sell­ing bi­cy­cles, of­fice equip­ment, and au­to­mo­biles in the

1900s. In 1902, it be­gan of­fer­ing the Lo­co­mo­bile car, the se­cond Amer­i­can to ar­rive in the coun­try. Other US brands fol­lowed: Oldesmo­bile in 1906 and Ford in 1907.

Mean­while, La Estrella del Norte, as a part­ner of Levy Her­manos, ini­tially sold French cars, even­tu­ally es­tab­lish­ing the Estrella Auto Palace to han­dle car and truck sales. A ma­jor dealer from 1901 un­til the early

’50s, it of­fered the largest se­lec­tion of cars and trucks in the mar­ket—21 brands all in all.

Ma­cLeod and Com­pany be­gan sell­ing agri­cul­tural equip­ment in 1904. By 1954, it was bet­ter known as In­ter­na­tional Har­vester and was un­sur­passed by other com­pa­nies. It had the largest deal­er­ship net­work and an assem­bly plant in Man­daluy­ong, Rizal. Twenty years short of reach­ing its cen­ten­nial an­niver­sary in 2004, it closed shop in the mid-’80s, it was dur­ing one of the most tu­mul­tuous pe­ri­ods in the Philip­pine his­tory.

Emil M. Bachrach was in the busi­ness of au­to­mo­bile im­por­ta­tion from the mid-1900s un­til the ’60s, sell­ing Austins, Buicks, Cadil­lacs, Fords, Packards, and Vaux­halls, to name a few. The com­pany even op­er­ated the auto-calesa, a pub­lic-util­ity jeep­ney, from 1932 to 1941. This pub­lic-trans­port en­deavor was repli­cated by Toy­ota Mo­tors Ala­bang, which has been op­er­at­ing taxis since the ’90s.

Af­ter mak­ing prof­its from sell­ing bags and other items, Manila Trad­ing and Sup­ply Com­pany (Mantrade) was able to pur­chase sev­eral im­por­tant agen­cies—namely, Ford, United States Rub­ber, and Rem­ing­ton Type­writer—from E.C. Mc­Cul­lough and Com­pany in 1918. By 1920, it had given up the rest and fo­cused on ex­clu­sively be­ing a Ford agency. Branches were es­tab­lished in Lu­zon, the Visayas, and Min­danao even be­fore WWII. The com­pany was able to re­sume op­er­a­tion early on af­ter the war. By

1955, it had built an assem­bly plant. Dur­ing the ’60s, it also sold cars from Ford Great Bri­tain (Cortina, Es­cort, Thames, and Tran­sit) and Ford Ger­many (Taunus). An­tic­i­pat­ing the end of par­ity rights in 1974, the Amer­i­can own­ers sold the com­pany to a con­sor­tium of Filipinos in the ’60s.

Due to the po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tain­ties and the eco­nomic crash in the ’80s, Ford Mo­tor Com­pany de­cided to ter­mi­nate its mar­ket­ing and sales op­er­a­tions in the coun­try. Mantrade was able to move on only by ex­tend­ing af­ter-sales ser­vices to loyal clients and liq­ui­dat­ing some as­sets. As the economy re­gained mo­men­tum, it ac­quired the needed fran­chise to op­er­ate anew. Nis­san Mo­tor Com­pany made it pos­si­ble in the ’90s. Now, Mantrade De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion is a dealer and a mar­ket­ing arm of Nis­san ve­hi­cles in the coun­try. It cel­e­brated its cen­ten­nial an­niver­sary (1918-2018) on April 1.

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