I’m a big fan of VW. When I was a child, long car journeys were shortened by playing silly games. These included cricket, where you scored runs for each vehicle you spotted (I was a child in the sixties so there weren’t yet that many cars on the roads!). A common British made family saloon like a Morris Minor was worth 1 run, a less common one such as a Mini van (not to be confused with a Moke) two runs, an MGB four runs and so on. A wicket might be a Jag and a six was a Bentley.
We also used to play spot the Bug (Bug was the nickname given to the VW Beetle – Bug) because Bugs were still relatively unusual in the UK. The first person to see a VW Beetle and shout out ‘BUG’ won a sixpence.
Some years later, my third car was a Bug. The year was 1981 or 1982 and I was living in London. I saved up the money to buy a 1965 left hand drive Bug imported from Belgium. It was a six volt which meant the battery went flat every two or three months.
I put up with flat batteries for about a year as it was my first and only experience of an air cooled car. However, I’d had enough after I found myself scraping ice off the windscreen with an umbrella at 6.30am on a cold and miserable February morning. Of course, as time goes by, the bad times are forgotten and the good memories survive.
Which is why, almost 30 years later I’m wandering around a VW showroom at the Curve just outside Kuala Lumpur. This time I’m not looking for a car for myself. I’m looking for a car for my daughter. We promised her a Mini if she managed to secure 5 A’s in her SPM exams, the Malaysian equivalent of UK O levels. She’s a bright girl but she was going through a difficult period so we needed to offer some incentives aka bribes. She responded magnificently and secured not 5 but 7 A’s. An outstanding performance and one worthy of a mini.
But as we discussed her having a car and I remembered my years of driving a Austin Healey Sprite with a bench seat in the back similar to that of the Mini, I thought that maybe she should look at four door cars that are as cool as the Mini which is why I found myself in a VW showroom on a Sunday afternoon.
As we entered the minimalist showroom I realised that we as a family are actually looking for two cars because my wife is also looking to upgrade her six year old BMW 3 series. Within minutes of setting foot in the showroom my daughter was squealing with delight as she sat behind the wheel of the Golf GTI. I had a puzzled look on my face because I was unable to find the Tiguan advertised boldy on the window to the left of the entrance.
I spotted 2 sales reps in the showroom. One caught my eye but she was attending to a customer. As she looked at me I knew that she wanted to help but was unable to do so. The other rep wandered around the showroom as aimlessly as I. I caught his eye a couple of times but he just ignored me.
After 14 minutes we left the showroom. A prospect in the market for 2 cars allowed to wander in, look around for 15 minutes and then wander out without so much as a “Hello, how may I help you?”
With vehicle sales in Malaysia forecast to drop by over 12% this year, the sales force, the brand guardians in the automotive sector, has to be on top of its game and take every opportunity given to qualify prospects and develop relationships with prospects otherwise the brands will not just be unable to compete, they will simply disappear.