Faisal Unfiltered

It’s the season of giving

Car companies in Malaysia have suddenly turned into Santa Claus as they push as much metal as possible before heading into 2013

“Psst…hey you. Yes you! The person reading this. Would you like to buy a brand new car? No-no, I’m not trying to sell you stolen goods and please stop trying to lead me into the alley. I’m not offering that kind of service. Seriously. You want to buy or not? I can get you massive discounts and you’ll still get a lengthy warranty and probably free servicing too. Interested? You know you want it!”

Alright, I’ll admit to not being a good scriptwriter but the scenario above seems to be playing out on front of my eyes every time I read the newspaper. Yes, I still read newspapers, but that’s a different story. What I’m trying to get at is I’ve never seen so many offers from car companies to buy cars. From freebies, to discounts to free instalments you can literally get the car sales people to lick your shoes if you’re buying right now.

How has this come about? Well, it’s fairly obvious that when the budgeting was done for 2012, most sales directors were feeling fairly optimistic about Malaysian car sales. We had just come off a strong year despite the issues with Japan and Thailand so logically, it would be even better for the following year. I guess they were all drinking the same moonshine because nobody planned for the unplanned, or as I like to call it, Malaysia’s ever changing market conditions.

The first salvo was the tightening of financing regulations. We Malaysians can’t stop ourselves when it comes to taking loans for cars we can’t afford, so the authorities decided to do it for us. Overnight, approval rates fell off a cliff and though the situation has improved throughout the year, it still meant in the early part of 2012, there were far more cars than people who could buy them.

Then the impending General Elections hung over everybody’s neck like a 50-pound anvil. Will we or won’t we be going to the polls? Why does life and business have to come to a standstill every four years or so? What does casting a vote have to do with buying a car? It may seem ridiculous but for the majority of the year, the general mood has been “limit my spending until after the elections.”

By the middle of the year, the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) then had to stop reporting car sales figures. Apparently there is a risk of collusion and price fixing between the brands (yeah right!) and while the act of not being able to know overall numbers won’t affect consumer sentiment, it makes planning production numbers akin to throwing darts with a blindfold on. You might hit the board but you might also spear the house cat.

But do you know what? I’m not complaining at all. When was the last time you saw so many cars (from entry level to executive luxury saloons) being flogged like they’re going out of fashion? Even the newest models are not spared so all you need really do is to ask and the sales people may offer you everything up to and including the kitchen sink and their first born.

Don’t feel bad for them or the manufacturers either. The need to move metal to meet targets and before January 15th rolls around (cars sold after that are classified as 2013 models) has created a unique situation where consumers can finally get some real value. Besides, I’ve heard of ridiculous dealer bounties being offered if they meet their quotas and blatant discounting for slow moving models so we might as well get a share of the incentives.

Of course, if you just bought a brand new car less than six months ago, you’re probably in the mood to either punch the slick talking salesperson or incinerate the dealership you bought your car from. Save the rage for when you sell it though because the knock on effect of these offers is a massive reduction in residual values. Have a Merry Christmas indeed…from the Malaysian Automotive Sector.

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