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What in the world is Francisco Motors’ new van?

A trip to Alibaba answers the question

Would you consider this as a comeback? PHOTO FROM FRANCISCO MOTORS

Francisco Motors has been an established name in the Philippine automotive industry, being one of the largest jeepney assemblers alongside Sarao Motors. In the ’90s, it began distributing the Mazda E2000, the Hyundai H-100, and even the Fiat Uno.

Two decades later, CEO Elmer Francisco has sought to shift the legendary nameplate into the current electrified age. His recent developments were assembling owner-type jeeps with electric motors, and distributing the Neta Aya, a Chinese EV hatchback.

On May 9, he announced big news of a brand-new commercial van in the works that would wear the FMC badge like in the good old days. What is in store for this mysterious machinery?

Eagle-eyed netizens are seething at the poor logo placements. PHOTOS FROM FRANCISCO MOTORS

According to Francisco’s post, the FMC Harabas is powered by a lithium iron phosphate battery with a 400km range and a fast charging system that goes from 20% to 80% in 30 minutes. He confirms high- and low-roof configurations for shuttle, cargo, and ambulance, among other purposes.

His recent photos showed a 12-seater high-roof unit being assembled in an unspecified location as well as the company’s logo and typeface. But then, people immediately noticed a PNG file being placed (poorly) onto the grille. Aside from the obvious Photoshop job, there’s something else that feels off.

It took Francisco four days to realize that the steering wheel is on the wrong side. PHOTO FROM FRANCISCO MOTORS

One image was deleted from the original post after more motoring publications featured the Harabas. This particular photo showed a typical 3/4 angle of the van, but the steering wheel was on the wrong side. Why on earth would the latest project from a Filipino brand feature a right-hand-drive vehicle?

Dropping the image onto Google Lens, you’ll be surprised to see one result: a listing on Alibaba of a commercial van with awfully similar-looking lights and blue-accented bumper designs. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Wanxiang T02. But hang on, why does the listing say Foton and Forland on the grille?

For about P462,000 (plus import duties), you can sell or own a 'Harabas', albeit wearing a different emblem. PHOTOS FROM WANXIANG AND ALIBABA

Simply put, this van was the result of a partnership in 2023 between Shanghai Wanxiang Automobile and Forland Motors, a division of Foton, assembling commercial vehicles from its Songjiang District plant and releasing them wearing their respective badges. Interestingly, on the official spec sheet, the van in question has up to 270km range in the 46.36kWh version, 130km less than in Francisco’s post.

Judging from the logo’s shape on the grille, Francisco shot different angles of the Forland EV7. The reverse image search of the RHD photo didn’t yield an exact match (as far as Google can see), so it is assumed that Francisco visited the facility and snapped away without noticing the blunder. This also indicates that Wanxiang plans to export its vans for opportunistic gray importers in Africa, South America, and Europe.

In the last paragraph of that viral post, Francisco announced that a few prototypes will be ready for local road tests in a few weeks. Still, he also admits that the Harabas is not “100% Philippine-made” yet since he hasn’t gathered various components from abroad for the yet-to-be-established assembly plant.

As nostalgic as the old logo is, its shape needs to be redesigned in order to fit the oval spot. PHOTOS FROM WANXIANG AND FRANCISCO MOTORS

Soon after, keen observers looked past the “Pinoy pride” celebrations and called out the self-proclaimed visionary’s white lies. In his recent (May 13th) post, Francisco brought up and quickly shunned these criticisms, claiming that it doesn’t resemble the T02/EV7.

There is no problem with Chinese cars being assembled in the country, Foton being the clearest example. FMC can grab whatever components and toolings it needs for its Francisco Special Economic Zone plant in Camarines Norte. Still, nothing can change the fact that the Harabas is not a homegrown Filipino product.

Sure, inputs such as the raised height of the high-roof variant that is suited for the “Philippine National Standard” are important changes for the average Filipino commuter, and further road tests will dictate how its suspension will be tuned for the local market. However, conveniently hiding details of its origin isn’t going to impress anyone, especially after people have done their research.

The jeepney can live on while emitting zero emissions. PHOTO FROM FRANCISCO MOTORS

Understandably, a headline titled “Iconic Filipino manufacturer uses Chinese-made vehicle as the basis for its new model” wouldn’t sound like good news in the current political landscape. The issue is that everyone has access to Google, and someone out there has the time and the patience to dig through online marketplaces and Chinese websites to uncover the truth.

All of that is not to say that Elmer Francisco has completely abandoned the elongated American military design. In another recent post, he shared an artistic render of a closed-cabin electrified Francisco Passenger Jeepney (FPJ) with a 220km range and a capacity of up to 30 passengers.

Again, these are just goals and renders. We will have to wait and see examples in real metal. In the meantime, there’s no need to hide. Transparency is key when it comes to pitching an idea, especially to a patriotic crowd begging for something to be proud of.

Justin Young

Justin loves cars of all forms. Molded by motoring TV shows and Internet car culture, he sees the world from a different perspective that not many get to see every day.