Volkswagen aiming for pole position

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:04pm


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Volkswagen aims to replace Toyota as Hong Kong's No 1 car seller in terms of sales, product range, and after-sales service by 2018.

That means Volkswagen will have to nearly double monthly sales to 6,000 cars over the next six years in a market where the number of new car registrations grew just 8.35 per cent a year on average in the five years to 2011.

But Volkswagen's new Hong Kong managing director, Thorsten Jaede, said he was confident of meeting the target since the maker of popular models such as the Golf and 'Beetle' saw its sales jump from 1,540 in its first year of operation in the city in 2008, to 3,898 cars last year - a rise of 153 per cent.

'We just came to Hong Kong in 2008, so there's still plenty for us to do in the retail market and the corporate business,' Jaede said. 'We will bring in more products - a new member of our Golf family will come out later this month - and we will also do more on marketing and boost the capacity of our after-sales services to reduce waiting time for Volks' customers.'

Volkswagen was fourth in sales in Hong Kong last year, after Toyota, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and Jaede admitted the German marque still lagged behind its Japanese rival in the quality of its after-sales service.

'[The Japanese carmakers] are dedicated to the most simple, stringent and consistent processes. This is something we can learn from, and in the last two to three years we have made major progress in the training of our sales staff and technicians.'

A report released last week from consumer information provider JD Power said mainland car buyers' satisfaction with some popular brands such as General Motors' Buick and Chevrolet - which have had record sales in the past two years - was slipping. Analysts said the expansion of the company's after-sales services had failed to keep up with the sales growth.

Japanese brands Honda and Toyota topped the satisfaction ratings' list last year, while Volkswagen's joint venture with First Automotive Works was ranked 11th. But Xu Changming, a senior economist from an information centre under the National Development and Reform Commission, said he expected Volkswagen to outperform the country's slowing car market in the long run.

Like its other rivals, Volkswagen is set to launch its first electric car - an all-electric Golf - in Germany next year. And Jaede - who was responsible for the group's international retail strategies before taking up his present post - said he wanted the car to land in Hong Kong first before launching on the mainland in 2014.

'While Hong Kong is a very small market it impacts on our business in southern China, which looks to Hong Kong for new trends,' Jaede said. 'Hong Kong is also more advanced [in its public and charging infrastructure] than China.'

Beijing plans to nurture a market for 500,000 electric cars and plug-in hybrids a year by 2015, up from around 2,000 sold to dealers in the first quarter of this year.