From its humble beginnings in 1996 as a small paint shop to becoming a major player in the Philippine aftermarket industry, A-toy Bodykits has truly come a long way and achieved a level of success not common in the automotive aftermarket industry. It all began with Victor “Atoy” Llave’s vision of making cars look good. The idea of getting into custom body kits came after observing the different cars that were winning shows ten years ago. It was also this budding fascination that drove him to start the business now known as A-toy Bodykits.
Llave first took time to learn the basics of fiberglass manufacturing by researching and attending seminars. However, as he was a new player in the industry, the market didn’t really accept his creations immediately. It even came to a point where thought about giving up the whole thing at the end of 1998. But in 1999, he decided to give one last shot as he participated at the Trans Sport Show. Needless to say his entry was able to win a major award. This was the major turning point for the business, as his products garnered recognition and new customers began to come to him.
The year 2000 was his first recognition as a bodykit maker through winning the Best Bodykit award in the Trans Sport Show. It would not be the only one as he would win more and more awards in the next few years. It was after this that Llave decided to diversify and look into making wide-body modifications in 2001. And thereafter, Llave introduced several trends to the country like vertical doors, suicide doors, and full body modifications.
AI: Since when were you into cars?
VL: Ever since high school I was interested in cars already. But during college, I got more into it that I planned to start the shop during my last year of college.
AI: How long have you been in the aftermarket industry?
VL: Technically, it would be 10 years now for the shop which started in 1996. But I started with bodykits in 1997.
AI: What inspired you to get into this business?
VL: It started out as just a hobby for painting cars. But the idea of body kits came when I was inspired by Andy Cheng of Starbright Bodykits, who was quite successful already at that time despite his young age.
AI: Do you think the industry has gone a long way since you started?
VL: Yes it has, especially now, consumers are more demanding. Their needs have become more dynamic that car manufacturers actually consider additional body styling to sell cars. Even the media has been paying attention to the aftermarket industry.
AI: Do you see our industry growing still in the years to come?
VL: Yes. We have many good players and I want everybody, even my competitors to grow. I don’t want to monopolize things because the market is so vast.
AI: Would you consider yourself as a prominent part of the industry?
VL: I would not like to put it that way, as people have different opinions on that. I can say that I am a trendsetter in the car styling business.
AI: What’s your take on the carshows we have today?
VL: We have too many carshows already as of now, but we still do participate in the major ones. I have begged off joining the minor shows to give chance to small players and amateurs who might be discouraged if professionals came and overshadowed them.
AI: What do you classify as your best work so far?
VL: I would have to say, that my Japanese car customized to look like a European car. With it came many criticisms as well. I even got a complaint letter from the German car manufacturer and much more slack on the various Internet forums. But for me, it’s just the thought of making this a reality that mattered. It was more of a business card to show what A-toy Bodykits can do.
AI: What would you consider as your best achievement?
VL: Modesty aside, I would have to say that I am partly responsible for putting the Philippines in the aftermarket map right now. My designs are now well accepted by major Japanese car manufacturers, some of which are even approved by their principals in Japan.
AI: What are your future plans?
VL: I’m planning to diversify into mass production and investing in plastic forming to achieve this.
AI: Do you have any last words?
VL: With regards to competition, I don’t really take it personally that some of them copy my designs. But I would like to encourage them to make their own designs, because they might even turn out to be better. That way they can really feel their achievement. I really hope all of us can continue to grow, whether small or big shops, so that we can all better cater to the consumers.
I would also like to give credit to Andy Cheng of Starbright Bodykits who helped me out a lot back when I was starting. Even though we have this kind of competition between us, I think it’s all just about business.
And lastly, with the criticisms I have been receiving, good or bad, I just accept these as suggestions on how to better my products. Sometimes I even learn from these criticisms. I don’t claim to know everything just because I am part of the industry. I actually thank my critics for their contribution to my work.