By Radhika Doraisingam,
The ongoing Covid-19 outbreak left many industries reeling from its impact, but perhaps none more so than the automotive industry. In April, only 141 units were sold, a mere 0.3 percent of the monthly sales of 49,935 units recorded in April 2019.
The government had been quick to counteract this decline, offering car owners a 100 percent sales tax exemption until December 31 on locally made cars and a 50 percent reduction on imported cars.
As consumers offload their older vehicles and upgrade, Motorist aims to offers a safe and convenient online platform, leveraging things such as safety and efficiency into the sales process.
“At Motorist, the majority of the car selling process is done online and it only takes three simple steps. Consumers have to submit their details while we source through our network of over 320 dealers. If the offer is satisfactory, an appointment is made to complete the transaction. It is fast, convenient and credible for customers to have a hassle-free time selling their vehicles.” says the founder and chief executive officer of Motorist, Damian Sia.
In a market known for unscrupulous deal making, Motorist fills a need for security and fairness in transactions as Sia tells Business Today.
“In 2012, I tried selling my own car but I was faced with many unethical buyers and dealers who tried to take advantage of my inexperience. They tried to lowball me and use suspicious tactics to get me to transfer my vehicle to them as fast as possible before certain procedures were even completed”.
During that time, he was a busy entrepreneur who was trying to set up a new business and he didn’t have time to squabble about such long and troublesome procedures.
“This sparked the idea for Motorist as I decided that a hands-off approach to this issue will be a better solution for consumers like me,” he says.
Originally based in Singapore, Motorist has since expanded to Malaysia to target the large demand and market for used cars, offering its services as a platform for used car transactions.
“One major difference to the second hand car industry in Malaysia as compared to Singapore is in terms of vehicle registrations. Malaysia has around 28 million units, while Singapore only manages about 1 million. There is a much larger market for used cars in Malaysia,” Sia remarks.
“Also, the second-hand car industry in Malaysia is generally more robust and competitive as compared to Singapore. This is due to the vehicle popularity, difference in public transport infrastructure and the availability of affordable brand news cars,” he highlights.
However, Motorist has not been immune to the debilitating effects of the Covid-19 outbreak but rapid recalibration of the company’s business goals on Sia’s part, have alleviated problems to some extent.
“Business has been greatly affected by the outbreak, with Motorist not operating during the Movement Control Order (MCO) for close to 2 months. We shifted our focus from growth to survival to sustain the entire team by generating sufficient revenue online. We have also applied for government support, which has allowed us to maintain operations without reducing wages despite a forecasted drop in revenue.
“We believe our work is important and has to continue and we will continue to do our best to support Malaysians who need to sell their vehicles urgently because of their personal reasons such as financial needs that may be a factor to consider as we go through this pandemic together,” emphasises Sia.
Changing financial needs due in large part to the market uncertainty of Covid-19 has compelled car owners who previously sold on the basis of personal reasons to now sell for the increased cash liquidity.
“This is the reason why the Motorist is committed to assisting Malaysians to sell their cars faster (within 24 hours), at the highest price possible, and at the same time, making it safe by reducing contact,” Sia reiterates.
With the goal of helping Malaysians sell their cars easily, transparently and at the highest price, Motorist aims to corner the used car market. However, problems have arisen as market heavyweights such as Carsome, Carlist and mudah.my already offer similar if not identical services to car owners. Sia expounds on his workarounds to this.
“During the initial launch 2 years ago, we faced some resistance from both industry players as well as car owners. This is because it is something new to them, and they are concerned about transacting a relatively big-ticket asset online. I literally had to meet used car dealers one by one and persuade them to give us a try.
“I’m glad to share that many of these partners have been working with us closely for the last two years, and we have built a trusted network of them who we know are reliable and honest in their dealings,” Sia adds.
This difficulty in gaining a foothold in the market has reflected in the company’s relatively low yield. Since its expansion into Malaysia two years ago, Motorist has only managed a rough average of 1000 cars sold. In answering for this low yield, he discusses the positive growth prospects for Motorist moving forward.
“Motorist is growing in Malaysia as we aim to emulate our success back in Singapore. Currently, we have a healthy relationship with 320 dealers in Malaysia and it is a good sign of future growth as well,” Sia maintains.
“Last year, the habit of customers selling their cars through online platforms was about 10-15 percent of the total transaction volume in Malaysia. We are looking to grow the number of users through our platform with our business advantage, which creates fairness and transparency by allowing buyers to ‘fight’ for vehicles through our closed bidding system. In terms of expansion, we are looking to emulate our business model in other ASEAN countries, starting with Thailand,” Sia says with conviction.
As the Motorist looks to expand and make its mark in the Malaysian market, more clouds of doubt and uncertainty surround, with the long-standing effects of the Covid-19 outbreak not yet fully understood. The company does not see this as an insurmountable issue, instead holding that this decline in sales will pass.
“In these times of crisis, many consumers may want to sell their cars to attain emergency funds so there may be a hike of available vehicles in the market. However, not many will take buying a car as a priority, hence transactions will and have fallen to this date. Automotive platforms such as Motorist might help elevate this problem,” Sia concludes.