Team effort and hard work drive Proton dealer to the top

By EUGENE MAHALINGAM | 22 August 2020

Quek says the team immediately maximised sales opportunities once businesses reopened.

PETALING JAYA: Hard work and sacrifice. Those are the two things that come to mind for Setia Gemilang Auto Sdn Bhd managing director Andrew Quek Tze Kean, when explaining how the company has consistently been the top performing dealer for national car company, Proton Holdings Bhd.

Short of waving his magic wand, of course.

In a time when companies are struggling just to stay afloat amid a global pandemic, Setia Gemilang seems to be bucking the trend. For the seven-months period ended July 2020, sales surged 126% to 1,716 units from 1,363 units in the previous corresponding period.

But Quek asserts that there are no magic spells to be cast or pixie dust to be sprinkled when it comes to selling cars.

“Our achievement is a team effort, really. We sacrifice our weekends, our time away from family and seriously it is a lot of hard work. There is no magic or short cut.

“We constantly find ways to up our game and organise ways to make the numbers happen every month. This also means numerous hours of pep talk and motivational guide to the team to lift their spirits, to focus and see the end in sight, ” he says.

Located on two acres of land in Shah Alam, Setia Gemilang is the first Proton 4S (sales, service, spare parts and spray paint) dealer in the country to carry the new corporate identity and colour to meet the standard requirements.

The outlet boasts 16 service bays and 12 body and paint bays. The outlet employs approximately 120 people.

For 2019, Setia Gemilang was the top dealer with 2,826 units. The company’s top sellers were the X70 (54% of sales), Saga (23%) and Persona (14%).

Looking at the year-to-date figures, Quek is confident of surpassing 2019’s total sales.

He attributes the stellar sales performance to having good models, adding that the government’s tax incentives have also helped to spur demand for cars.

Setia Gemilang sold 320 units in January and 348 units in February. Sales in March, April and May were severely impacted by the government’s movement control order (MCO), which was implemented to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

In June, the company sold 326 vehicles, before hitting a new record high in July with 475 units. The previous high by a dealer was 345 units, way back in 2011.

In spite of the exemplary sales performance, Quek says most of the second quarter of this year has been a tough period for the company.“There were many rough days and sleepless nights, just thinking about issues to settle. The initial thoughts at the time was definitely the welfare and well-being of my staff. I am glad that during those months we were able to keep them on the payroll.

“The easiest thing to do was to just let the issue slide and maybe not be too bothered as everyone was affected. But at times like this, I have to think further and be prepared for any eventuality. I had to re-group my thinking. After all, these people are my assets. They are the reason why the outlet exists and why we are able to deliver the sales numbers.”

Quek also says efforts were made to provide food and advanced cash to the staff.

At the height of the pandemic, Setia Gemilang donated medical equipment to the country’s front liners.

During the MCO, Proton was constantly conducting surveys with its dealers and vendors on how soon they could get things up and running. Quek says once the government implemented the conditional MCO in early May, Setia Gemilang was already prepped and ready to go.

“I remembered we all rushed to do what we do best. That is, to sell as many cars as possible. Appointments were back on track and we just kept working. The team was eager to perform their best, as they needed to catch up on the lost months.

“We ensured that we followed all the standard operating procedures diligently. In addition, free masks and face shields are provided to walk-in customers, test drive cars are sanitised frequently and cashless payments are encouraged.

“Sitting areas between one customer and another are segregated into transparent cubicles to encourage social distancing.”

In hindsight, Quek says the MCO has thought him and his company a very important lesson.

“If there’s one thing to be learnt, it’s that we need to be ever ready, as everything can change in the blink of a second. The thing that we learned is the power of technology as most queries, discussions and meetings were held online. Without it, no communication would have been possible.”

In terms of performance, Quek notes that a lot changed once China’s Zhejiang Geely Automotive Co Ltd (Geely) completed its acquisition of a 49.9% stake in Proton from parent DRB-Hicom Bhd, in September 2017.

A lot of it had to do with Proton’s current chief executive officer, Dr Li Chunrong.

“Li changed the game. He invested plenty of faith in us and embedded within us the ability to deliver our best. He glorified our successes with constant encouragement. He also has a very able team to manage the network of things in the company.

“The sales and service team at the corporate head office are also excellent. They are highly responsive, fast and quick to offer advice and guidance when we needed their help to manage issues.”

Quek says Proton has laid out a viable plan for its dealers and vendors.

“It is indeed a solid plan and direction. It includes things such as how a new Proton outlet should look like, to how and what we should and must have in the outlet in order for us to operate optimally. This is not to say that, previously, there wasn’t any concrete direction.

“But there was a gap in our cars in the market and consumers are somewhat reticent to the brand, as it lacked high-technology products. Once Geely came in and introduced new technology, it created a buzz and very soon it elevated Proton to a whole new level. The market liked what it saw and they responded well. It was exactly what people wanted!”

Total sales for Proton jumped 45.7% year-on-year to 13,216 units in July, marking an eight-year high for the national car company.

Proton’s total domestic and export sales for 2019 surged by 36,077 units or 55.7% year-on-year to 100,821 units. In January, the group had set a target to sell 132,000 vehicles this year.

For now, looking at the group’s sales performance so far, Quek is optimistic about the outlook for the local automotive industry.

“We are on track to hit another record year. I believe Proton can continue to excite the market and renew faith in the brand for those who are still having doubts in the brand.”