Car dealers banking on online sales

Dream car: Dealerships are pivoting to more online platforms to cater to customers during the second round of the MCO.

PETALING JAYA: Car dealers are pivoting to virtual platforms to stay connected with interested buyers during the movement control order period.

Salesmen are hoping that Chinese New Year promotions, which will start soon and a further six-month sales tax exemption by the government, will help boost sales.

Nicholas Foong, a sales adviser at the Honda’s Tenaga Setia Resources Sdn Bhd branch in Section 51 here, felt that online marketing was the best medium at this time.

“The number of walk-ins is getting fewer as more people heed the government’s call to stay home. But we have yet to see a deluge of orders online, ” he added.

Fazly Hizwan, a car salesman in Melaka, said most people shied away from visiting car showrooms while movement controls are in place.

“I work four-hour shifts several times a week, and see about one or two people coming in. Car companies are encouraging more customers to go online. Showrooms are still allowed to operate, but we can’t have too many sales personnel on duty, ” he said.

Test drives, he added, are allowed but only two people can be in the vehicle, which has to be disinfected thoroughly after use.

Car industry players expressed appreciation to the government for its efforts to support the automotive industry by allowing showrooms and service centres to operate during MCO 2.0, besides extending the sales tax exemption till June 30.

Mercedes-Benz Malaysia president and CEO Dr Claus Weidner said even before the pandemic, the company started utilising data and technology to offer customers a luxury experience both online and offline.

“Customers have responded positively to these initiatives as it has enhanced their brand and product experience. Moving forward, we will continue to evolve to meet the changing trends of customers and adopt more digitalisation in our sales and after-sales process, ” he said.

Weidner added that the company has implemented a comprehensive health and safety protocol to protect customers and employees across dealerships during the MCO period.

Proton Edar chief executive Roslan Abdullah said the initiatives by the government were a “much needed shot in the arm” for the local car industry.

“For us, it means an opportunity to ensure customers who booked last year don’t miss out on the tax exemption. Having said that, we did not see a massive drop in bookings towards the end of December, suggesting that the choice of Proton is not solely price dependent anymore.

“More customers are choosing us due to quality and technology along with an improved brand experience, ” he said.

Proton’s service centres and showrooms will continue operating subject to strict procedures, but test drives are only allowed by appointment only, with each car being sanitised after use, he said.

“We have used online bookings for a number of years, starting with the X70 in 2018 when we received over 10,000 bookings prior to the official launch.

“That experience showed us that online bookings allow us to increase our reach to customers who may not be close to one of our dealers, and this has proven to be very useful at a time when restrictions have limited physical visits, ” he added.

UMW Toyota Motor president Ravindran Kurusamy said the firm will continue to support customers by providing suitable financial offerings and digital services along with our strong customer service network.

Toyota has provided an online car showroom, which is accessible to interested buyers looking to browse vehicle models or get in touch with its sales team.

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