Interview by Kap Maceda Aguila
WELTMEISTER (or WM) might be an unfamiliar name in the Philippine automotive scene at the moment, but Rashid Delgado is expecting that it won’t be the case for very long.
Despite its German-sounding name, the firm is actually headquartered in Shanghai, China, and specializes solely in developing battery electric vehicles (or BEVs). Notably, it’s a brand with big names behind it, such as Chinese tech brands Baidu and Tencent. The company was started in 2015 “under the leadership of former Geely board member Freeman Chen.”
It’s now set to wage war in the EV space here.
Mr. Delgado, president of WM Motor Philippines, the local distributor and service provider, said that the timing is right. Last week, the company formally unveiled the Weltmeister W5, a crossover that will, pardon the pun, lead the charge of brand in the country. Priced at P2.584 million — affordable by EV standards — the W5 is expected to get people’s attention (if the aforementioned fuel prices haven’t yet).
It’s a brave move nonetheless. Having nothing but EVs now and in the future in its portfolio, WM Motor Philippines (WMPH) now lays claim to being “the first-ever full-play electric vehicle distributor outside of China.” The first Philippine dealership for WM is at SEVEN/Neo in Bonifacio Global City.
“Our impact on the environment and pollution is not getting any better. So we feel that electric vehicles offer a very compelling value proposition to the Philippine consumer. And we feel that the WM W5 is the right product at the right time,” continued Mr. Delgado.
Here are excerpts of our interview with the WM Motor Philippines President.
VELOCITY: The most obvious question has to do with the fact that you will be distributing only electric vehicles. That’s a very significant development. What makes you think that the Philippines is ready for these types of vehicles?
RASHID DELGADO: We’re very excited for this important milestone. We feel that the time is right and the time is now to introducing a more sustainable option for consumers, especially at this time when gas prices are rising day by day. Our impact on the environment and pollution is not getting any better. So we feel that electric vehicles offer a very compelling value proposition to the Philippine consumer. And we feel that the WM W5 is the right product at the right time.
Of course we’ve had hybrids for a while now — more than a decade. But the purely electric vehicle is probably something that still needs to be introduced to quite a number of people. You’ve made a significant investment in this space. Again, what gives you the confidence to say that the country is ready for WM and its pure-EV portfolio?
Well, as a company, TDG (Transnational Diversified Group) which has been (our) holding company, believes in sustainability and giving back to the planet. It’s part of our group purpose to co-create a better Philippines working together as a force for good. We identified electric vehicles as an untapped opportunity in the Philippines compared to our neighbors in Southeast Asia and definitely compared to more mature markets such as China, Europe, in the US. We’re, as you say, further behind. We have a lot to catch up on — especially on the infrastructure side, and also in terms of the models available in the marketplace. But that to us creates an opportunity to take a market leadership position to promote EVs and to start to make a positive impact here.
Not only is WM Motor Philippines offering solely EVs. You’re also introducing a new brand. What are the company’s unique selling propositions or value propositions compared to the other brands that are now in this space?
Well, the other brands that are introducing electric vehicles are from more established brands — brands that have already been in the market for many years, of course, you know, with successful products — mainly ICE-powered vehicles. Some of them are starting to introduce EVs. We feel that WM offers a different approach as a pure EV brand. They come in with technology. The platform that they’ve built over the years in China, with all the Tier-One suppliers in terms of batteries and components, they have strong support also from technology companies in China, with Baidu, Tencent as investors. So we felt that they are strongly backed in China and already have a successful track record with the EX5 or the W5 as one of the best-selling EVs there.
We wanted to bring in WM and their products and replicate the success they’ve had in China. One of the things I think what they do that sets WM apart is really their positioning in the market. And you know, they really wanted to bring in a product with technology and sustainability, and offer that to as many people as they can. There’s mass market appeal and pricing that’s attainable. We don’t want EVs to be a high-end luxury item which only very few can afford. We want to bring in a product that will have more appeal to more people — to the everyday Filipino — as much as possible.
Ultimately, we want to make a difference in terms of sustainability in terms of the impact on our environment, and that doesn’t come with one or two cars. Now we’ll come with many, many more cars with many more Filipinos driving EVs in the future.
How happy are you with the government support and legislation for EVs?
We’ve been hopeful for strong support from the government. We’re still hoping that the government would consider stronger support for the EV industry. You know, whether it’s in the form of more fiscal incentives, tax incentives, we feel that it’s important to jump-start the industry in that way. But nevertheless, we’re going push ahead with our plans, you know — with or without the tax incentives.
We feel that we have a competitive power even without (additional incentives). But if you look at other markets around the world — you know, countries like China and in Europe and US, they had some form of tax incentives just to kick-start market to help generate more and more consumer demand.
While the price of EVs upfront have a premium, over time, especially now with the cost of the fossil fuel, we feel that the total cost of ownership of EVs are actually very competitive. Charging our EV costs about P500 for a 400-kilometer range. Compare that to filling up your tank with gas; you’re talking P5,000 to P6,000 right? There’s that plus the ease and the lower cost of maintenance; we feel that it now starts to make sense financially also to consider EVs at this time.