History of AUV in the Philippines

History of the AUV or Asian Sport Utility Vehicles in the Philippines

Progressive Car Manufacturing Program

The Marcos era in the 1970s was regarded as the industrial age and the art renaissance of the Philippines. Various tech innovations were taking place, including the development of tropic-rated BUVs (Basic Utility Vehicles).

1n 1973, President Marcos Sr. signed the Progressive Car Manufacturing Program (PCMP), helping keep the country’s automotive industry ahead of its neighbors.

The program included five local car manufacturers who devised the technical framework for the BUV. The government directive was to address the growing mass transportation of the Philippines.

GM, DM-Ford, Mitsubishi-Chrysler, DMG-Volks, and Toyota

Out of PCMP came GM’s Harabas, Ford Fiera, Mitsubishi-Chrysler Cimarron, DMG’s Trakbayan (Volkswagen Basistransporter), and the Toyota Tamaraw (Toyota Kijangin) assembled by Delta Motors.

Remembering the iconic Ford Fiera

The first BUV was the Fiera. It cost about P10,000 in 1972, with a bare chassis donned with sharp edges. It was blatantly essential, with a hard ride but cheap to roll out.

Developed by Ford Philippines, the Fiera was iconic, initially designed as a mini pickup truck.

According to Vicenta Mills, a veteran of the auto industry, the first AVUs were developed by five members of the original PCMP using a design where the body of the Ford Fiera was essentially lowered onto a custom-built chassis.

Small enterprises and business persons used it for peddling produce, hardware materials, and “for-hire vehicle.” From Divisoria to far-flung provinces, the Fiera accounted for nearly 70% of all LCVs (Light Commercial Vehicles) at that time.

Head of the design team of Ford in Muntinlupa, Cornelio F. Carlos, supervises the assembly of the Ford Fiera in the 1970s. Fiera was the first AUV in the Philippines which was blatantly basic to pull down the cost but still work efficiently. (Photo: Courtesy of Anna Alegre)

The BUV evolution to AUV

Harabas was the smallest BUV, similar to the average jeepney, but with innovative sliding windows. It was discontinued in the 1990s, and most BUVs evolved into AUVs three decades later.

The Cimarron (Delica) transformed into the versatile L300 in the 1990s. It distinguished itself from the rest of the AUVs, while the Trakbayan was short-lived.

BUV vs. the jeepney

Interestingly, these AUVs were seen as the existential threat to Sarao and Francisco Motors’ iconic “Pinoy Jeepneys.” They were the modern take to public transportation at that time.

However, the all-new longer jeeps with wider open windows felt a more comfortable ride. Despite moves to phase out the classic jeepney, its idiosyncratic design lived to tell the tale.

Toyota Tamaraw evolves into the early AUV

In the mid-1970s, although Toyota entered the US market in 1965, it still struggled to make a name as a reliable Asian car. The Tamaraw, along with the Corolla, survived as one of Toyota’s great testaments.

The Tamaraw pickup was introduced in December 1976 and gained traction in 1977 for its simplistic design and price point with a high-side roof-enclosed option.

Like the rest of the “primitive AUVs” then, the wagon was simply a boxy folded sheet metal without aesthetics or aerodynamics. However, it was easy to maintain and repair.


The Toyota Tamaraw, commonly known as “FX” in the early 1990s, was widely used for private and public transportation because of its improved ergo design and price point. (PHOTO: Judgefloro, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Toyota Tamaraw FX

By 1979, Toyota Tamaraw became the No. 1 BUV with a 40% share, followed by the Ford Fiera with 30% among semi-private public transportation.

In 1992, the FX wagon debuted as a passenger vehicle, although it was first introduced in 1986. It quickly became popular after the usual boxy BUV became ergonomic.

The Tamaraw FX was also known for its thick heavy gauge that appeared hardwearing and became the standard for private and taxi operators.

It was a better alternative for public jeepneys because of its air conditioning, less bumpy ride, and the station-to-station bus-like system route, especially for corporate employees. 

AUV to Asian SUV

Revo, Innova, and Avanza

The “FX” evolved into Revo in 1998 as the 4th generation Tamaraw, although the FX was still in the market until around 2003.

In 2004, Toyota launched the Avanza, known as the “Baby Innova.” It is technically the 5th generation Tamaraw.

The following year, the Innova was launched in the Philippines, although it was first released in Indonesia in 2004.

In the years to come, the 6th generation Tamaraw became the most popular AUV until compact and mid-size to full SUVs became more popular.

Toyota Innova 2023 has fallen far from the tree. In the same year, Toyota announced its plan to resurrect the Tamaraw and introduced an all-new line of the same variant, delineating itself from its current mid-size and compact SUVs.

Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program

In 1990, the Car Development Program (CDP) replaced the PCMP after Marcos was exiled. CDP’s People’s Car Program welcomed new car players, Honda, Kia, and Fiat. Still, Toyota dominated the Asian Sports Utility Vehicles or A-SUVs market.

In 2017, the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program, under the Department of Transportation, was organized by President Duterte.

It aims to encourage more AUV production for public use and phase out older jeepneys.


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