Wisdom > Car Life

The trouble with Filipino car clubs

Or the common reasons they ultimately fail

Phase 1: Every member of the club is well-behaved and falls in line. So much promise. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

Filipinos are truly car-crazy. We just love automobiles. It’s a status symbol, an extension of our freedom, a means of self-expression and a catalyst for like-minded people to congregate. Almost every single car brand or model has a club of sorts. From the humble Mitsubishi Mirage and the utilitarian Toyota Innova to the sporty Nissan GT-R and the exotic Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, there’s a group for almost everyone. But oftentimes, these car clubs don’t end well or last long.

I’ve never bothered to join a car club myself because…well, let me list the reasons down.

1. Snobbery is commonplace. Let’s face it: Owning a car involves money. Customizing it will require even more cash. Some guys in the group can afford more expensive cars. Some can afford brand-new, original and rare parts and accessories. Others can only afford replicas or used products. The snobs then sneer at and look down on those who can’t spend like they do, thus causing a division within the organization. And then comes the shaming (or subtle bullying). If you can’t afford the best and newest cars or parts, some of your fellow members will scoff at you. Sad but true.

2. Some members act like they’re more important than others. Car clubs will always have that one person or small clique that can sway the group and influence the club’s direction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But when they start treating everyone else as their serfs and lowly subjects—demanding attendance at dubious club events and activities, or enforcing personal preferences versus the collective and inclusive good of the group—things go downhill fast.

Phase 2: Everyone suddenly wants to be the star. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

3. There is too much internal politics. When a car club gains fame, influence and access to the distributor of the brand of their allegiance—and its officers start enjoying special perks as a result—other members grow resentful as they are unable to experience the same privileges. Everyone wants to be the star so politicking surfaces, dividing and eventually destroying the group.

4. The leaders treat the group as a marketplace. There’s an infamous car club that saw most of its older members leave because the founder and president started selling car parts to the group. If the members didn’t buy from him and bought elsewhere, they would receive a “demerit” of sorts, leading to a ban and even ejection. If other sellers wanted to offer their wares within the group, said officer required a commission. No wonder the early members left.

In the beginning, somebody gets the bright idea to organize. Then that somebody realizes that he or she can make money out of the group

5. The club usually becomes a moneymaking scheme in itself. In the beginning, somebody gets the bright idea to organize. That’s good. Then that somebody realizes that he or she can make money out of the group: Collect membership fees, sell official club merchandise, raise funds for projects (some questionable, others downright dumb). But the worst part is that very rarely is any proper accounting presented to the group. In many cases, the person in charge of the budget ends up misappropriating it for personal use (new car parts, trips abroad, even a new car).

6. Splinter packs always emerge. Oftentimes, a car club starts out as one harmonious group. Then several individuals within that group decide they should form a subgroup that caters either to their specific car model or to a certain geographical location. Soon, this smaller group becomes very active and vocal, and starts imposing its will on the rest of the main group. Chaos naturally ensues since the smaller faction tries to insist on something that benefits the few rather than the many.

Phase 3: Everyone has his own personal agenda and ends up leaving the club in turmoil. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

7. It’s hard keeping up with the Joneses. I was once part of an informal car club. We all owned Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions. We hung out at night. We went to track days every month and to fun runs at least twice a month. Then some of us upgraded to much nicer cars, while new members appeared. Before I knew it, everyone (except me) owned exotic cars, spoke of buying watches that cost more than cars, and traveled to famous driving roads and racetracks overseas. Meanwhile, I had to save up for the next mod on my old car. I obviously couldn’t join them, and felt sheepish parking my ride beside their shiny machines. The old guys were nice and cool, but the new ones gave me that odd who-are-you and why-are-you-here stare, especially when I’d bring my old car to hang out with them. I left the group because of this. Because truthfully, if you can’t relate to an exclusive circle and you don’t feel welcome anymore, it’s best to find more compatible company.

8. People are just really envious by nature. Some guys will always be richer and more successful. Thus, they will always have the nicer and newer cars and parts. In an association full of testosterone, envy will disrupt, divide and blow up the group. I was once talking to an elderly gentleman who had a most impressive collection of cars: a gaggle of Porsches, a Ferrari, a Merc-AMG and a few other high-performance luxury cars. He was incredulous as to how another much younger club member had popped out of nowhere with countless exotic cars. The old guy’s and the others’ conclusion? “The young dude must be doing something illegal.”

There are more reasons why car clubs fail, I’m sure. But the root is always just either envy or greed. May we all guard our hearts against both.

Botchi Santos

Botchi is your friendly, walking car encyclopedia. He loves helping people choose the right vehicle for themselves as much as he enjoys picking the right one for himself. Expect him to write about car culture, test drives and car-shopping advice. His regular column is called ‘Car Life’.