- Published: Thursday, 31 December 2015 09:06
Ricky Tay takes on the role of VW’s managing director here tomorrow
SINGAPORE — Volkswagen Group Singapore has a new managing director, and he’s a Singaporean. Ricky Tay will take charge of the brand’s operations here, effective January 1st, 2016. He is the first local to head the business.
Mr Tay (pictured above) has more than 30 years experience in the car trade, 15 of them with Volkswagen. The 59 year-old joins the Singapore office after a stint in China, where he was the group managing director of the territory’s import operations. He was also managing director of Bentley Motors China.
He reports directly to Soh Weiming — another Singaporean, and most likely the highest-ranking one in any auto business worldwide — who is the president of VW’s commercial operations in China and ASEAN, as well as the chairman of Volkswagen Group Singapore.
Mr Tay replaces Steffen Schwarz, who became MD in January 2013. Mr Schwarz had decided in the middle of the year to accept an offer to return to Germany, where he will continue to work for Volkswagen Group.
An analytical, straight-talking man who openly admires Singapore, Mr Schwarz steered VW through stern challenges here.
Having arrived from the post of aftersales chief in China, he worked hard on improving the brand’s customer service here, after well-publicised gearbox woes put a dent the dealership’s reputation.
He opened Volkswagen Exclusive, a second outlet at MacPherson, ostensibly to provide a showroom for would-be customers in the East, but also to boost the company’s workshop capacity as part of a revamp of its aftersales operations. That helped to cut waiting times for a servicing appointment from weeks to three days.
By 2014, the company received as many as three compliments for every customer complaint in a month — an increase from zero. There are months now when more than a hundred compliments come in.
In April 2014, Mr Schwarz also opened Das WeltAuto, the company’s approved used car business, to provide customers with a lower entry point for the brand, price-wise. He also led a push into Brunei, working closely with an exclusive dealer to bring about a sevenfold increase in sales.
In short, Mr Schwarz leaves Volkswagen Group Singapore in better shape than he found it in when he arrived.
Yet, there are challenges for the incoming boss. On a global scale, VW is dealing with a need to revamp its brand in the wake of an emissions scandal. It is too early to predict the effects of the resulting soul-searching on operations here.
Closer to home, there are the twin tests of a growing COE Quota in the short term, and a contracting one in the long term. The first will boost sales in line with an overall market expansion, and brings with it the challenges of growth. The second will result in the headaches of contraction — job cuts, asset disposal, and so on.
Unless something is done to smoothen out the COE supply, the new Volkswagen head, like his contemporaries in the car trade, faces the test of trying to make the most of a feast-and-famine business. It is a vexing situation, and one that has been frequently highlighted by the outgoing boss.