Industry > Sales

The most outrageous sales promo ever in PH auto industry

Back in the ’90s, Mazda’s official distributor pulled this thing off

Would you buy a multipurpose vehicle if it had been bundled with a sports car absolutely free? IMAGE FROM MAZDA

If I ask you to give me an example of a car sales promo that looks too good to be true, you’ll probably cite one of the following:

  • 0% down payment
  • P300,000 cash discount
  • P200,000 worth of freebies

Tempting, sure. But not one of them can match what Columbian Autocar Corporation, the previous distributor of Mazda vehicles in the country before turning the brand over to Ford Philippines, pulled off back in the 1990s. At the time, Mazda was a small Japanese automaker that churned out decent cars. Its compact sedan was called the 323, and its midsize one was known as the 626. They were okay, but certainly far from being the dream cars their modern counterparts are today. My favorite model from the brand’s stable then was the 323 Astina, a sharp-looking five-door fastback with pop-up headlights.

Oh, there was another attractive automobile in Mazda’s product lineup back then—some small roadster called the Miata. The model sold here was the original version, which has since attained iconic status among legitimate petrolheads. Unfortunately, in a time when Filipinos were going crazy for the first-generation Honda CR-V, hardly anyone was paying the Miata much attention. Who wants to drive a cramped two-seat convertible in a polluted megalopolis anyway?

To get rid of slow-moving units, Columbian launched a sales campaign that blew customers away: Buy a Mazda MPV, get a Miata free

To get rid of slow-moving units, Columbian launched a sales campaign that blew customers away: “Buy a Mazda MPV, get a Miata free.” Yep, you read that right. Purchase Mazda’s popular family vehicle at the time and you get to also take home a cute little sports car. Imagine Bermaz Auto Philippines offering the CX-9 now with a free MX-5. I guarantee Mazda showrooms nationwide won’t be able to cope with the onslaught of salivating buyers. And that’s assuming said buyers won’t dismiss the promo as fake news.

I regret not having kept a record of the campaign’s important details: the prices of the vehicles involved, the conditions that applied, and the total number of units sold. Looking back, I’m not very sure now if it was the MPV or the Miata that Columbian needed so badly to dispose of. Maybe both?

Whatever. The fact remains this promo will forever be remembered as the most incredible sales tactic ever employed in the history of the Philippine automotive industry. As to whether this scheme actually turned some profit…well, that may be another story altogether.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.