Volkswagen was a household name in Malaysia, especially from the 1960s to 1970s, when its iconic model – the Beetle – was plentiful, affordable and lived up to the company’s name as a maker of the car for the masses.
However, the imposition of high duties on imported cars in subsequent years made ownership of these vehicles too expensive for the common folk.
Volkswagen Group Malaysia (VGM) managing director Ricky Tay is all smiles as he expects the brand to be making a strong comeback with its offerings of more competitively priced imported and soon-to-be-launched locally assembled models.
|Tay says Volkswagen Group Malaysia aims to offer at least one model that is affordable to the ordinary Joe.
“Last year, VGM sold 2,810 units and we expect to exceed 5,000 cars by the end of the year,” he tells Star Rev
in an interview.
Its cars – the Beetle, Polo, Golf, Scirocco, Eos, Passat CC, Tiguan and Touareg – were fully imported and popular in their respective segments.
VGM started its sales operations in Malaysia in 2007, recording sales of 753 units. In the following year, sales picked up 22% to 920 units.
Once cars from a local assembling programme with DRB-Hicom in Pekan, Pahang start rolling out, one could only expect VW models to be more affordable.
“As our focus is at expanding the line-up of our passenger cars in Malaysia first, we are leaving the introduction of commercial vehicles to a later stage,” he says.
Last Wednesday, VGM introduced three fully imported models – the Jetta 1.4TSI and Passat 1.8TSI sedans, and the Cross Touran 1.4TSI multi-purpose vehicle at pricing levels that add a new dimension to the current automotive landscape.
Priced at RM149,888, RM184,888 and RM166,888 for the Jetta, Passat and Cross Touran respectively, even those who have never considered buying a quality German car may be having second thoughts.
With the company’s name in German meaning “The people’s car”, Tay says it is their aim to offer at least one Volkswagen model for drivers from all walks of life.
The Golf is VGM’s best selling model to date, mostly due to its iconic appeal as well as its reliability and technological features.
|The three new models introduced to Malaysia last week are the Jetta (front), Passat sedan (left) and Cross Touran.
Tay, 55, who was appointed as Volkswagen’s Malaysian head in May, has more than 30 years experience in the car industry.
He spent seven years in Taiwan, nine in Japan and 10 in China.
The Singaporean got his taste of the automotive industry while serving in the republic’s national service in 1976.
After finishing the service’s main basic training, he got into a mechanical training course which upon completion, ended up in a unit charged with the maintenance of vehicles used by reservists. Tay is also a certified welder.
His formal entry into the car industry came in 1979 with Alfa Romeo and later Peugeot before joining Volkswagen in 2000.
In his early days with Volkswagen, Tay was the area manager for Volkswagen Group Singapore handling Australasia.
Although he was based in Singapore then, Tay spent most of his time overseeing operations hands-on in Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and New Caledonia. He managed to push the Volkswagen brand into the top two in the four markets.
Tay also coordinated the setting-up of Volkswagen Group Australia before he was appointed to a new post in Shanghai.
While in China, he helped rationalise the number of Volkswagen dealers from a bloated 2,000 to some 450.
“There were dealers who only wanted to sell cars and the others only wanted to do aftersales but never the two together,” Tay says.
“So in certain times, sales dealers would make money and aftersales dealers lose money and vice versa.
“Anyhow, we were always having dealers losing money and complaining to us,” he says.
To mitigate the problem, Tay says sales and aftersales dealers were told to merge into one so they would be able to remain profitable.
After the dealership downsizing, Tay managed to boost sales to a record 441,000 units in 2008 despite the period’s global economic downturn.
At the moment, VGM has 13 dealers in Malaysia and its reach is still not that good.
“But we have been getting many inquiries from people wanting to invest in dealerships.
“Their outlets have to be located where business opportunities for our brand and products are viable.
“If dealers are not making profits, they would not be willing to invest more money for expansion and our customers will end up not getting the brand experience and satisfaction,” Tay says.
On his management style, Tay holds the view that there is no one who is “useless”.
“I believe that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. You just have to assign them the right job at the right time,” Tay adds.
As such, he says the company stresses on having career-planning for its staff so that employees not stay at the same positions for too long.
“Employees usually grow for the first two years on a new job before hitting a plateau in the third year.
“On the fourth year, they will start to dip. In our case, we ensure that our employees get a career movement by then,” he says.
Tay also stresses on constant communication between the company and its employees to foster a sense of ownership and belonging.
His company holds a “Communication Day” each month that even includes drivers and cleaners, who will get their chance to be heard and updated on the company’s directions.