Dato’ Sri Ben Yeoh has worked in the automotive sector for almost 40 years, in a variety of capacities including retail, distribution, and manufacture. In addition to being the CEO of Berjaya Auto Berhad, he is also the Executive Director of the company’s board of directors. Since 2008, he has served as the Managing Director of Bermaz and BMTSB. In 2007, he was elected a Fellow of the UK Institute of Motor Industry, and in 2013, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the institute. On strategic expansion endeavours, the effects of trade agreements on the vehicle business, and achieving success via customer happiness, Dato’ Sri Ben Yeoh, CEO of Berjaya Auto Berhad, speaks.
Bermaz Motors began distributing Mazda goods by importing Mazda Corporation Japan’s completely built units (CBU). Their success, owing to their appealing design and cutting-edge technology, motivated us to expand our commercial operations to include local production. To comply with our National Automotive Policy, a completely knocked down (CKD) programme was established (NAP). This programme includes incentives to ensure that local manufacturing investments are effectively repaid through competitive pricing and increased volume sales. Because of the expanded local production activities and the benefits provided by the government under the NAP, Mazda Corporation and Bermaz Motor formed a joint venture to form Mazda Malaysia, a manufacturing firm. The Malaysian government encourages the automotive sector to engage in local industrial operations, such as CKD production and component parts manufacturing. Malaysia has two national vehicle manufacturers: PROTON and PERODUA. Because CBU imports are banned, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and other Japanese brands have assembly and production facilities in Malaysia. As a result, in order to grow our sales volume, we must also engage in local manufacturing activities. The joint venture with Mazda Corporation ensures that we have the support we need from the major manufacturer to carry out local production while maintaining high quality. We were able to acquire a local cost content of 40% thanks to the localization of components backed by Mazda Corporation and their Japanese partners. This allows us to take advantage of government tax breaks under the NAP and export to certain ASEAN countries under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA).
The fundamental benefit of the AFTA is the ability for free trade within the major ASEAN constituent nations, which include Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, all of which have active auto industries. The AFTA allows for the unfettered importation of vehicles into these main countries, with no limits on imports and no tariffs. To put it another way, the AFTA programme has no tariffs or any non-tariff impediments. However, products imported under the AFTA plan must have a minimum of 40% ASEAN local content.
The SkyActiv Technology entails increasing the efficiency of internal combustion engines and using light, high-tensile steel in the body construction to reduce weight and increase structural rigidity, hence increasing overall structural strength. The transmission has been upgraded to reduce frictional losses and make gear transitions more direct and positive. The steering and suspension systems have also been upgraded to provide a more linear driving experience. As a result of the whole SkyActiv package, the vehicle’s engine performance and driving characteristics are improved.
The company’s success is attributed to a number of things. We start at a very low point, and there is room for improvement. It’s a question of persuading customers that we have the best technology and that it’s sustainable. We must create a positive ownership experience in order to be viable. We’ve created a programme in which we provide Mazda owners a completely stress-free first three years of ownership, including free maintenance and full warranty coverage. As a result, we have a high retention factor and a good CSI rating. Mazda owners are well informed of the technology and design of Mazda models and usually act as our ambassadors through their various social activities in the Mazda Owners’ Club. This improved brand image allows us to price our Mazda vehicles at a slight premium over our competitors.