Segment Okavan-guard

By Kap Maceda Aguila

SOJITZ G AUTO PHILIPPINES (SGAP), local distributor of Geely, recently launched its third offering in the country — the Okavango.

Positioned as a seven-seater crossover multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), the Geely Okavango is expected to further solidify the presence of the China-headquartered automaker which debuted here in September 2019.

The MPV takes its name after an inland delta in Botswana, Africa — formed where the Okavango River “reaches a tectonic trough in the central part of the endorheic basin of the Kalahari.” Of note, this is the end of the line for the water; it does not find an inlet into another body of water and simply evaporates or seeps into the soil. The Okavango Delta has been declared as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.

SGAP President and CEO Mikihisa Takayama said, “Coming from the successful launch of the Coolray and Azkarra, we are confident that the new Geely Okavango will be a game-changer in the industry as it combines the best qualities of a multi-purpose vehicle and an SUV into one exciting seven-seater mid-size crossover. This promises to give you a luxurious, uncompromising, and wonderfully distinct ride.”

Outside of China, where the Okavango is badged as Haoyue, the Philippines is the first country to get the vehicle. Remarked SGAP General Manager for Sales and Marketing Froilan Dytianquin to “Velocity” in an exclusive interview, “Geely would really like to expand in the ASEAN market having both Malaysia (as Proton) and Philippines as their initial successful market.”

He added that since the country has a left-hand drive configuration, our market “had the opportunity to be the first to (sell) it after China. I believe the Middle East/GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) markets will follow soon given different conditions (there), e.g. extreme heat.”

The Okavango is presented as a “wonderfully distinct” vehicle in of terms of “space, technology, design, power, and safety to elevate the driving experience.” It is also the only 48V EMS (electric motor synergy)-equipped seven-seater vehicle in the country today — promising more efficient performance with the aid of a mild hybrid system which works with its 1.5-liter turbocharged engine for a system output of 190hp and 300Nm. The power plant, jointly developed by Geely and Volvo, is mated to a seven-speed wet-type dual-clutch transmission.

It gets six SRS air bags, a 360-degree panoramic camera system with “a best-in-class guidance system and dynamic auxiliary lines,” speeding warning, electronic stability control, hill start assist, central locking with speed-sensing auto lock, and hill descent control.

The crossover boasts a spacious cabin, with three-row seating configurable in 19 ways. For added convenience, the vehicle gets an impressive 42 storage nooks and compartments. It also receives a triple-zone air-conditioning system, enabling the driver, front passenger, and rear passengers to select their own desired temperature setting. A CN95 cabin filter helps assure air quality within the vehicle.

During an online Q&A session with Geely and SGAP executives, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group’s Ashley Sutcliffe expressed hope that the Haoyue’s success in China would be mirrored by the Okavango in the Philippines. “We’re off to a good start (in China), and hopefully it would translate there.”

As for its “game-changer” positioning, the Okavango is said to possess value propositions unique in its segment/price point — such as the aforementioned heightened safety feature, mild hybrid system, and the “highest power-to-weight ratio in its class,” according to Mr. Dytianquin.

Addressing the timing of the release, Mr. Takayama acknowledged, “It has been a challenging year for all of us particularly in the automotive businesses,” and said hopefully that the Okavango comes “in at the right time” with renewed vehicle demand in coming months, “particularly on core segments such as subcompact cars, MPVs, and SUVs.”

The niche that Okavango is getting into is populated with heavy hitters. “It’s challenging, but our intention is to be able to present to the market that we’re delivering products that you’re missing out on… We’re different and we’re able to deliver products that (give) value for money,” explained Mr. Dytianquin.

SGAP targets to sell some 400 units of the Okavango a month. Concluded the executive, “Geely definitely sees a huge potential in the Philippine market to further grow (demand for the vehicle) given our 110 million-strong population.”

The vehicle comes in two variants with the following pricing: Comfort (P1.208 million) and Urban (P1.328) million. Geely Philippines presently has four dealerships (North EDSA, Quezon Avenue, Cagayan de Oro, and Imus Cavite), and intends to grow that to 28 by the end of 2021.