[Leadership, Innovation and Strategy in Automotive Industry]  Who Are Our Customers?

Raymond Lee

  • Managing Director – Greater China, Sime Darby Motors Group (HK) Limited
  • Fellow, Automotive Distribution & Retail Industry, Asia Pacific Institute for Strategy( 亞研所院士 )


The automotive industry is one of the industries that is threatened by lots of disruptive forces which are catalysed by advance in technologies and changes in consumer behaviours.

We as distributors and dealers of OEM are always being asked “Will dealers exist in the future?” or “What kind of role are we playing in the future business model?” My answer is very simple, no matter what are the revolutionary changes, we still have a role to play.

However, this is not to say that we can lay back in our cosy comfort zone and watch the swirling wind in the outside world. We, as leaders, should have the visions of anticipating changes and to strategize the organisation to ride through such changes.

There is always a need for us to keep abreast of the latest development in the industry ecosystem and to move in-tandem with these changes. For instance, the totally different behaviour of Generation Y and Z is causing a need to go for digital transformation in all aspects of our sales processes.

The customary use of smartphones and online means that there is an urgent need for adoption of O2O business models if not fully on-line. The focus on products per se is long gone, but rather a customer experience in various touch points during the journey before and after buying the car.

Gone are the days when we had a mega showroom with a full range of products on display. A more lifestyle oriented experience centre, located at city and commercial centre with easy access, allows customers to look for what they want and chat with experts without any pressure from both sides to conclude a deal is more the way to move forward.

Besides the digital transformation, electric vehicles and autonomous driving are 2 major forces shaping the future industrial ecosystem as we are more concerned about safety and environment.

With improving technology in batteries allowing longer driving distance on fully charged as well as more infrastructural investment in charging stations, electric vehicles are getting more and more acceptance, particularly the younger generation.

The launch of the 5G technology also accelerates the development toward the level 5 fully autonomous driving vehicle. These two combined will catalyse the development of new business models such as car-sharing, short term rental and fleet business, which again are something that traditional retailers are not yet gear-up for. Buying and owning a car is simply not the only option and the imminent question to ask is “who are our customers?”

In addition, the connectivity function of the car will mean that customers are fully integrated with it whenever and wherever they go. Customer individuality is not necessarily reflected in the car they have chosen, but rather on their preference that will be stored in the cloud that will be loaded into the car when they use it.

As leader we have to plan ahead to embrace these coming developments. These involve not only changes in hardware, but more of mind set changes as well as business processes changes. These disruptions will not happen all out of a sudden, but will be a metamorphic process transforming the industry gradually. Therefore, we need to prepare our talent well in advance in anticipating these to come.

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