Malabon Diesel at 45 - It’s all in the family

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Horror stories of family businesses ruined by sibling rivalry and conflicts among relatives abound. Some say it is better to engage in business with somebody not related to you than be part of a family business. But then again, some actually thrive precisely because they are family-run. SC Johnson, for example, is now being run by fifth generation Johnsons.

Like any family, the challenges we tackle make us stronger. The wins we enjoy bring us together. And in everything we do, we consider our children and the generations to come.

This, more or less, seems to be the core principle of Philippine-based family-run business, Malabon Diesel.


Above. The main workshop at Malabon Diesel.. Obet has been preparing son Mario Enrico to take the reins.

Jumpstarting a business

Located in the north of Philippine capital Manila is Malabon, a city rapidly emerging as an economic hub. It is in the heart of this thriving coastal city that Malabon Diesel, a 45-year old family enterprise, sits.

Established in April 17, 1967 by Mario Bernardo and his then teenage son, Roberto, Malabon Diesel was originally conceptualized to serve as a calibration shop for Bosch pumps using a Bosch testbench. Roberto, fondly nicknamed Obet, was immediately put in charge both as technician and testbench operator. The first three years saw the business in the red. However, Obet, armed with strong work ethic and good business sense, never gave up and persevered. On the fifth year, the father and son team was able to turn the company around, slowly and steadily cultivating a substantial customer base. Soon, Malabon Diesel was servicing customers nationwide.

In 1978, Diesel Kiki Co. Ltd., a Japanese manufacturer for fuel injection pumps under license from Bosch, invited it to become the exclusive service representative rendering technical and warranty assistance to companies like General Motors.

Diesel Kiki Co. Ltd., which changed its name to ZEXEL Corporation in 1990, and acquired and changed to Robert Bosch in 2000, continues to be a major partner of Malabon Diesel.

In 2004, Malabon Diesel officially became a proud Bosch Diesel Center.

Formula for success

If you ask Obet what his formula for success is, he would tell you that Success is a function of Family, Principal Supplier, Customer, Partner and God.

As touted in the company website, “The culture or values of the family drove collaboration on this business…The father and son activity became an undertaking for the whole family.” In effect, the current management team of Malabon Diesel has stayed true to the legacy of Obet’s father, Mario, while simultaneously evolving towards a dynamic industry landscape.

Maintaining good professional relationship with principal partner Robert Bosch is also a contributing factor. “Our long relationship with Diesel Kiki or ZEXEL gave us the opportunity to learn and enable access to important resources. We grew because of mutual trust and the cooperation that came with it.”

Bosch has given the company more stability, flexibility and the capacity to meet high customer service requirements.

There are also the Customers. “As long as they are happy with our service, they will continue to bring good business.”

Then, there are the Partners. Obet, who started with just two guys, now has more than 30 partners in three companies. “We value the contributions of each individual in this company. We are a group that mutually shares resources, knows how to adapt to change, and respects the capacity and opinion of others.”

And most importantly, God. As the company put it, “No matter how prepared we are, we will not succeed without His blessings.”

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The Malabon Diesel crew.

Third generation leaders

Obet, who began Malabon Diesel with his father Mario in the late 60s, is currently president and general manager. His easy smile and gentle demeanor have made him beloved by all, from partners, suppliers, clients and employees. These days, he continues to troubleshoot vehicles and test pumps. He and his wife Gloria still oversee the company’s day-to-day operations.

He has also been preparing his son Mario Enrico to take over. An Industrial Designer by degree and Bosch electronic pump and commonrail specialist by profession, Mario Enrico has attended all fuel system and diagnostics-related courses from Robert Bosch. On the other hand, the other children, Elizza Bernardo-Dizon, Suzette Bernardo-Namoco and Roberto, Jr. are with Gloria handling the administrative, accounting and sales-side of the business.
Much like their father Obet and their grandfather Mario before them, the siblings are well-versed in the art of personalized service. It is, as any member of the Bernardo family will tell you, all about relationship. A client is a partner. What Malabon Diesel provides is not service but satisfaction. And at the heart of all these is old fashioned care, which Obet instilled in his children very early on.

Defining standards, upgrading facilities, empowering people

Forty-five years after Malabon Diesel first opened its doors, Obet and his family continues to offer expert assistance to individual and corporate partners. In the diesel system industry, Malabon Diesel has established itself as a trusted and reliable company. The positive word-of-mouth it has generated through the years is proof of that.

Malabon Diesel is continuously evolving both in personnel and in facilities to consistently meet demands. In 1993, Malabon Diesel extended its services outside the city with Malabon Diesel-Pampanga. Then, in 2007, Obet and Gloria invested in more modern Bosch facilities and opened Diesel King to help lower the pump repair cost for new models equipped with Bosch electronic and commonrail systems, and distribute Bosch test equipment.
It does not stop at equipment upgrades, though. It has programs in place to advance and empower its team of hardworking partners.

The membership in the ADS has strengthened Malabon Diesel’s commitment to quality and professional service. The annual conventions served as avenues to source out relevant industry and technical information, trend opportunities and special hard-to-find parts.

In the Philippines, sustaining a business is a tough undertaking. It is easy to fold up in the face of complex government policies and the fickle-mindedness of a highly volatile market. But for those who persevere despite the odds, who choose to grit their teeth and face the challenge head on, the results could be rewarding. And yes, it always helps when you have a dependable support system that you call family.

But don’t just take our word for it. Just ask Obet.


This article came out in the Pre-convention 2012 issue of the Nozzle Chatter. Download the article by clicking here

The Association of Diesel Specialists (ADS) is the worldwide diesel industry's leading trade association, dedicated to the highest level of service on diesel fuel injection and related systems. Members are located throughout the world and consist of independent repair shops specializing in diesel fuel injection, drive-in, governor and turbocharger service. To members, ADS means worldwide recognition by diesel owners and operators and an industry support network. To member's customers, ADS signifies a network of professionals dedicated to the achievement of high-caliber service. Looking forward to seeing you in the next convention. Read the benefits at