Carmakers, dealers turn to online site

The move aims to keep their businesses afloat during MCO with low booking deposits and special promotions despite huge restraints


CARMAKERS have to resort to online platform during the Movement Control Order (MCO) in a bid to keep businesses afloat, but it is expected to be hardly feasible and will not be producing encouraging numbers.

Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) president Datuk Aishah Ahmad (picture) said automotive companies are unable to register new cars as services are only available for commercial vehicles at this juncture which made delivery impossible.

With no way to register and deliver cars, Aishah said online booking offerings would remain unattractive in the market.

She also said car buyers would still prefer to visit showrooms and test drive cars before purchasing — two factors that virtual selling could not fulfil.

“It is a new normal. We have to contact customers and offer car models online which most companies have done so. The response may not be as great, but we have no choice,” Aishah told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Aishah said carmakers have been appealing to the government to allow for the opening of dealers’ outlets and new car registrations.

The MCO, which started on March 18, has shut car outlets nationwide and brought dealerships to the edge of financial ruin.

About 45,000 cars rolled off showrooms a month in Malaysia, but the stay at home orders have spelled doom for the automotive retail segment that also suffers high overhead costs.

Dealers and principals are resorting to digital showrooms with low booking deposits and special promotions to at least keep the orders coming in despite huge restraints.

Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia Sdn Bhd and Malaysia’s largest BMW dealer, Auto Bavaria, launched their respective digital showrooms to allow customers to book vehicles online.

Proton Holdings Bhd offered online bookings that can be made from as low as RM9.99 with chances to enjoy “duit raya” of up to RM800.

Renault sole franchise holder in Malaysia, TC Euro Cars Sdn Bhd, has joined the fray by announcing an expansion of the Renault subscription trial plan, adjustments to the subscription fixed and switch plans, and a deal for Renault vehicles purchased via its e-store.

Still, Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd group VP Jahabarnisa Haja Mohideen said there is no point doing car sales online when the vehicles cannot be delivered to buyers.

“We need a delivery option and that is our biggest challenge. We cannot simply take bookings because that may be overpromising and lead to frustrations,” Jahabarnisa told TMR.

She said taking bookings without being able to produce cars as plants are closed would also cause another problem.

“Until we can produce and deliver cars, which are the most important parts, the idea of online sales is secondary,” she added.

Toyota Dealer Council Malaysia president Simon Thong Weng Kin said car dealers are trying on their own to sell cars online during this period although sales expectations are low.

“I do not think sales will be encouraging. I suppose people will prefer to wait. No delivery, no registrations and thus no urgency to book cars,” Thong told TMR.

He also raised an issue that dealers could not produce receipts if payments are made because the office is closed.

AllianceDBS Research Sdn Bhd analyst Abdul Azim Muhthar said customers may still prefer to walk in to showrooms instead of booking cars online to gain input and interactions with salesmen.

Abdul Azim said high-end vehicle buyers could be more receptive to online bookings as they have less financial concerns compared to ordinary customers in the mass market who may hold their purchases at this trying time.