Philippines thinks Ford first Local assemblers in the Philippines are grumbling about the government aid Ford Motor Co. will receive for its car, engine and parts plants set for construction in Santa Rosa, some 28 miles (45 km) south of Manila. Perks include six-year income tax relief and a zero-tariff rate on imported raw materials and capital equipment. Ford reportedly wants to produce 25,000 vehicles annually (Econovan, Laser and extended-cab Ranger) beginning in 1999, increasing output to 40,000 in a second phase. The move is part of a drive to improve Ford's share of the Asia/Pacific market from less than 1% to 10% by year 2005, executives say. Local carmakers, including Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. and Nissan Motor Philippines Inc., say Ford is not entitled to the tax and fiscal credits - usually reserved for major exporters - because the company plans to export only parts, not the vehicles it will produce. Ford pulled out of the country at the height of an economic (and political) crisis in the early 1980s, critics point out. The market already is saturated, the automakers add, and they worry that a precedent has been set that will allow others to seek similar tax breaks.

Turin looks to step out of the shadows Last month's auto show could be the last held in Turin in the spring. Organizers are beginning to tire of the exhibition - held every other year - languishing in the shadow of the Geneva Motor Show. Only six weeks separate the two events, and automakers rarely save any new-model firepower for the Italian show. Fiat Auto SpA, effectively the Turin home team, has tried to add some luster to the event, but even the world introduction of the Seicento there last month was considered anticlimactic. The car already had been shown following Geneva. As a result, the exhibition continued to be dominated by student designs and styling concepts from the Italian carrozzieri, neither considered big draws. If the Turin show organizers' efforts are successful, a change to a late June or early July opening could happen as soon as 2000.

Economy no drag on Hyundai Down Under The economic crisis in South Korea doesn't appear to be slowing Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. in Australia. The automaker has at least three additions to its Australian model line in the works - including a seven-passenger "people-mover" (due in early 2000), a small sport/utility (slated for second-half 2000) and a new flagship car. And plans are to replace most of its existing cars before 2000, says Hyundai Automotive Australia Chief Executive C.K. Liew. The new Sonata is due in August, followed by the revised Lantra (Elantra in the U.S.) in October and revamped Excel in late 1999 or early 2000. A new coupe is slated to bow in 2001.

Chrysler gets firmer grip in Asian markets Chrysler Corp. continues efforts to control its destiny in key export markets, adding Thailand and Japan to the list of countries in which it now operates wholly owned distributors. In Thailand, Chrysler purchases assets of Thai Chrysler Automotive Ltd., a 4-year-old joint venture held 30% by Chrysler and 70% by Swedish Motors Corp. The resulting wholly owned distribution arm, Chrysler Sales and Service (Thailand), expects to have six dealers in Bangkok, 10 megadealers in the countryside and 40 showrooms nationwide.

If it's OK for Tulsa, will it work in Oz? Ford Motor Co. may take a page out of its U.S. playbook when it comes to dealing with dealers in Australia. Local press reports say Ford Australia wants to slash the size of its retail network, creating a string of superdealers throughout the country. The game plan is similar to one Ford has in the U.S., where it is experimenting with consolidating dealerships in Tulsa, OK, and San Diego. Among proposals is one calling for Ford Australia to pay poorer-performing retailers two years' profits to surrender their franchises. Another plan would see Ford loan money to dealers to buy out their competitors.