Although I've been there several times, the prospect of a European trip never fails to elevate my adrenalin level. So when the dapper Peugeot Philippines president, Glen Dasig extended an invite I uncharacteristically immediately bared my interest without even asking how long the trip was. I even immediately presumed that it was for the usual test drive.
Well the length of the trip, which was from last September 29 to October 7 turned out to be vital for two main reasons; first, for me to be gone on a trip for 9 days would mean advance taping sessions for 3 weekly TV shows that I host (Motoring Today, Business & Leisure and Auto Focus) or a total of 9 episodes. The last yearly sabbatical I had, which was in the US last July for 15 days involved 4 weeks of advance taping. But then that was for the well-deserved annual vacation with the family. The second reason the length of the trip was vital was because we are in the midst of preparations for the Awards Night of this year's premier dual auto industry merit awards, namely, the 2016 Auto Focus People's Choice and Media's Choice Awards, which is scheduled tomorrow.
On the presumption that it was going to be a usual test drive, well that was where I was utterly mistaken. It was a trip that brought journalists from the Philippines, Taiwan, and from Latin America (Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Colombia) to Europe for the single reason of making us experience and understand deeper what the Peugeot brand is all about.
To warm us all up after almost 20 hours of travel counting a 3-hour layover at Abu Dhabi and a day's rest in Paris, a visit to the world-renowned Paris Motor Show was the first major part of our itinerary. It presented what Peugeot has to offer as far as modern mobility is concerned. The one thing that stood out for me, which was confirmed in later interviews with Peugeot's top executives, was the current visible leaning of Peugeot towards SUVs. There was also quite an array of other interesting automobile offerings displayed by Peugeot, considered as the second largest European Carmaker in the world, during this year's Parisian car showcase, but due to space limitations I'll just have to invite our readers to check out a special TV feature of the Paris Motor Show in one of the future episodes of our weekly auto TV magazine Auto Focus (Solar Sports, Sky Cable, Channel 70, Thursdays, 10pm).
The Philippine media contingent was composed of newly recruited Manila Times motoring editor, Vernon Sarne, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist and Top Gear consumer editor Fitzgerald "Bochi" Santos, Philippine Star contributing writer and CNN Philippines TV host Karen Jimeno and myself. And weren't we all delighted with the smorgasbord of one-on-one interviews with Peugeot's top executives like Gilles Vidal, Director of Design, Ms. Marion David, Product executive for New Peugeot 3008 and 5008 projects, Philippe Barriac, senior product manager for the new Peugeot Traveller, Cathal Loughnane, head of Design Lab, to mention some.
And the day after, a round table discussion over lunch with no less than the Peugeot Brand`s CEO, Jean Philippe Imparato, exclusive with the Philippine media aboard a yacht while on a leisurely river cruise.
After the power lunch we moved by high-speed train from Paris to Sochaux, France for a visit to the Adventure Peugeot Museum followed by the rare opportunity to drive some of the iconic classic cars in its garage. The purpose of this visit is conceivably to give us an idea of the long and colored Peugeot heritage, experience and expertise in manufacturing for over 100 years. Driving mint condition iconic classic cars, some almost half a century old is a reflection of the durability and reliability of their products. The visit to that part of France could never have been complete without a thorough tour of their Sochaux factory with detailed description of their very impressive manufacturing and assembly lines.
After the vintage cars ride and drive and plant tour came the actual series of test-drives of recently launched Peugeot vehicles that included a Traveller (sorry, honoring the media embargo about this new offering, I can't talk about it except to say it's worth watching out for its coming debut in the country), five Peugeot 308, five Peugeot 2008 and a Peugeot 208. This first leg was from Sochaux, France to Neuchtel, Switzerland, a long but very scenic 100-kilometer driving experience capped by an overnight stay at the lakeside located Best Western Hotel, which boasts of heated floor tiles against the low temperatures and of course the 5-star amenities, which unfortunately for us we limitedly enjoyed over dinner, sleep and breakfast.
After Switzerland we drove a total of 188 kilometers over well-paved roads with panorama after panorama of breathtaking views on our way back to France, this time in Chamonix, which could probably be a ski resort town judging by the prominent snow capped mountains surrounding our place for the night, the Hotel Le Morgane.
The next day was the clincher for this European ride and drive experience aboard remarkable Peugeot vehicles - a 448-kilometer stretch of more picture perfect scenic views from France to Bologna, Italy.
It was indeed a Peugeot imbibing experience. Quoting Peugeot CEO Mr. Jean Philippe Imparato while stressing on the Peugeot brand's priorities, "My interest is not much on the next car that we are going to sell, but on the experience of our customers who have bought our cars and those who are going to buy them."
It was indeed an eye-opening experience for me regarding the deep and serious concern of Peugeot in projecting the uniqueness and positioning of their brand. Simply put - over and above the selling of their cars, Peugeot's paramount concern is customer satisfaction.
The entire trip was a smashing success. I would like to thank Peugeot Philippines (Eurobrands Distributor, Inc.) president, Mr. Glen Dasig, whose forte, which I have proven further through this trip, is not only being an always properly and nattily dressed GQ model, but a well-rounded executive best-equipped to deal with his global counterparts.
I also need to give proper credit to Peugeot Philippines' marketing executive, Ms. Karen Carvajal for her professional dedication and patience in dealing with the wants and requirements of the motoring media all throughout the trip. Good job, Karen.Peugeot had a dismal presence in the country in the past. But at the rate the present exclusive importers and distributors of the brand is working on projecting its true image to the market, it won't take long for it to be the country's "top of mind" brand in its category in the very near future.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ray Butch Gamboa graduated from the College of Arts and Letters of the University of Sto. Tomas. It was a course that should have been preparatory to a law degree, but the call of broadcasting aborted his plans.
At the age of 16, while still a student, Butch tried his hand at disc jockeying, landing a job at Mareco Broadcasting Network’s AM stations DZBM and DZLM. From there, Butch moved on with his illustrious career as a popular disc jockey, riding the airwaves of Bob Stewart’s middle-of-the-road music at DZXX, and ending his disc jockeying career at ABS-CBN’s DZYL and DZQL.
From there, he stayed on with ABS-CBN, covering live the proceedings at the Manila Stock Exchange and eventually entered into the world of television sales as an account manager for the premier channel of ABS-CBN Channel 2.
In the early 70’s, at the outbreak of Martial Law, Butch was one of the thousands of professionals who woke up jobless when then President Marcos declared the new status of the nation. With the closure of ABS-CBN, Butch ventured into different fields outside of broadcast. He tried his hand and with ease and success at export (Costume jewelry), real estate (brokerage), and restaurants (fast food).
In 1987, after the revolution, with the broadcast industry back to its free state, and with its irresistible call ringing in his ears, Butch made his inevitable comeback and pioneered in a local motoring show, producing Motoring Today on Channel 4 and co-hosting with local motor sports’ living legend Pocholo Ramirez.
After 4 years, he ventured into another pioneering format by producing and hosting Business & Leisure, which was originally aired on ABS-CBN’s Channel 2. The format eventually espoused similar ones in other different channels. But the clones in due course faded away leaving the original staying on airing on Channel 4 and eventually on Shop TV on Sky Cable’s Channel 13.
The following year, the pioneering spirit in Butch spurred him to produce another TV show, Race Weekend, also on Channel 4, covering circuit racing at the Subic International Raceway after the motor sport’s hiatus of 17 years. But when similar shows with duplicated formats sprouted, he decided to give way and ended the program after a year, although still enjoying unparalleled viewership.
In 1998, when the local automotive industry was in a slump, Butch contributed his share to help the ailing industry by producing another popular motoring-related show, this time exclusive to the automobile and its industry—Auto Focus, which became a vehicle for local automotive assemblers and importers to showcase their products and dwell on the industry’s latest technological developments.
In 2003, Butch teamed up with his brother, Rey Gamboa who was a former Shell executive and presently one Philippine Star’s business columnist to co-produce and co-host the TV show Breaking Barriers on Channel 13. It is a talk show that features guests who are in the news and in the middle of controversies. The program ventures to draw deeper insights into current issues to learn how they impact to our daily lives.
Today, Motoring Today on its 28th year of service to the general motoring public still enjoys its unprecedented loyal vierwership nationwide while Auto Focus, after 16 years has firmly established its niche viewership among automobile enthusiasts and on the other hand Business & Leisure is on its 24th year dishing out current business issues and lifestyle features.
Today, aside from writing weekly columns for the Philippine Star (Motoring Today on Wednesdays and Business & Leisure on Saturdays) and executive producer / host of weekly TV shows (Motoring Today, airs Sundays on Solar Sports Channel 70, Business & Leisure, airs Tuesdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13 and Auto Focus airs Thursdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13, Ray Butch Gamboa is currently the Chairman and CEO of Sunshine Television Production and Marketing Services Corp., President of Gamcor Management and Development Corp., Chairman of Asia-Pacific Realty Corporation, President and Chairman of Socio-Communication Foundation for Asia and Founding Chairman of the Society of Phil. Motoring Journalists (SPMJ)