Around the late ’90s to the early 2000s, Mitsubishi’s “Pizza Pie” Lancer was a fun-to-drive family car, but the 1.6-liter SOHC in-line-four wasn’t all that thrilling compared to Honda’s VTEC-equipped Civic.
I was writing for The Philippine Star back then when Arlan Reyes called me up. He was with the marketing department of Mitsubishi at the time, and he invited me to try out a one-off, MIVEC-equipped Lancer at their plant. Mitsubishi Innovative Valve Timing Electronic Control system was Mitsubishi’s answer to VTEC, and had yet to be introduced to the Philippine market.
I showed up at their old Cainta plant. Arlan met me at the parking lot and presented a red Lancer to me, identical to a run-of-the-mill production unit—except under the hood was a MIVEC-equipped 4G92 making 173hp. He explained to me that the engine had been brought over from Japan, and transplanted into a donor car. It was for technical evaluation by their engineers.
He gave me the key, and I gingerly navigated the traffic until we finally made it to the clear twisties of Tanay.
“Sige na, pare. Go for it.”
So, I did. And let me tell you that during those early years, a naturally aspirated in-line-four making that much power was an eye-opener. I’d always liked how the Lancer handled and felt, that all it really needed was more power to make the car truly come alive. The shoehorned engine did the deed, and the car ate up the hills with gusto.
When we reached a flat area, Arlan instructed me to pull over. He then got out of the car, popped the hood, and removed the paper element from the air filter. “Para mas makahinga, pare. Balik na lang natin mamaya kapag nasa bayan na.” And so right there, we gained another couple of horses, or maybe it was all psychological, but the engine just sang like a banshee.
And that’s the Arlan Reyes who has just been appointed by Astara as the brand head for JMC and Peugeot—a guy who cares deeply about cars and is passionate (maybe a little crazy, too) about driving. Just the thing that a car company needs to make people fall in love with its cars.
Arlan has 25 years of experience in the motoring industry, and besides working with the media, he has had to work with dealers, advertising agencies, and whatnot—everything that has to do with marketing a brand. Besides that MIVEC experience, Arlan made sure that there was always a sizable demo fleet and a few “special” models: the Evolution VI Tommi Mäkinen Edition and the Evolution X come to mind.
Mitsubishi having such a sizable brand presence during the 2000s and the 2010s owes a lot to the efforts of Arlan and his team.
Then in 2019, he retired. He did work for some Chinese brands in the background, but it seemed he just wanted to get some much-deserved rest. Occasionally, he would pop up in my feed as he’d share the latest GoPro footage of his rallycross exploits.
Ever a modest guy, he’d criticize his own performances and point out how he could have hit the apex later or gotten on the gas sooner—never mind that he was still going a lot faster than many other guys who could only wish they were in the driver’s seat.
I asked him why he decided to unretire, and he said: “There was an itch to come back to the mainstream corporate world. I needed a channel to share my expertise and experience, and contribute to the growth of the brands under Astara.”
Car guys gonna car, and marketers gonna market. It’s in their blood.
Arlan is understandably keeping his plans close to the vest for now, and when asked, his intentions are “for JMC to successfully launch the brand and its vehicles into the market by next year. For Peugeot, I see that we have a great SUV lineup. My task there is to have more buyers consider the brand.”
If Arlan can bring that same passion and energy to Astara that he did for Mitsubishi for so many years, I think we’ll be seeing a lot of JMC trucks and Peugeot cars rolling into new homes next year.