The Mighty Peugeot Lion Is Roaring Again in South East Asia
Automology’s columnist, MAC, ponders on the preference towards continental or Asian cars in Malaysia, with Peugeot leading the show.
Peugeot and Citroen seem to be in very good hands these days. Well, at least in South East Asia where they are partnered and headquartered with the Malaysian listed Naza subsidiary, Nasim Sdn Bhd. Since 2008, when Nasim took over responsibility in South East Asia and launched the Big Blue Box in the Glenmarie Business Park, west of Kuala Lumpur, sales for the brand have been impressive, to say the least. They have plans to be even better in the future, according to recent news reports.
The current car market is very different from when I first visited Malaysia back in 1980. Then, I can distinctly recall the slightly rural feel to the road system, which was dominated by old British and German marques like the VW Beetle, the Morris Minor and the French Peugeot 404 (I think that was the number) with just a smattering of cars from Datsun, Mazda, Honda and Toyota. Fast forward 30 plus years, the roads are now some of the best in the region and the market is dominated by the usual Japanese brands, particularly Toyota.
Currently, European marques account for just 5.5% of all cars sold last year, although that figure is expected to rise to 7.6%. Of course the Japanese cars available in Malaysia, like in all other markets, are good cars, but for some good enough is never enough; they hanker after something with more flair. Cars have become aspirational items and, for many, they are a reflection of the individual’s personality, their individualism and how they would like the world to view them. Thus, for some, the routine Japanese offering will never be enough.
Under the Naza stewardship, the PSA Group, who owns both Peugeot and Citroen (the other French car company), seem to be experiencing a renaissance and now ranks as the third European car choice in Malaysia, behind the mighty BMW and Mercedes Benz. Their share is only about 13% of the market currently. Perhaps the French lion is not truly roaring yet, but Nasim has certainly got sales moving for PSA. In Malaysia, Nasim now has a total of 30 service centres, 12 of which they own and 18 are owned by dealers.
PSA is obviously impressed by the development as they have made Malaysia the production hub for all right-hand drive vehicles in the region, including some countries in Africa to boot. Under this new initiative, Nasim has already exported cars to Thailand and Indonesia, and will commence shipments to Brunei, Sri Lanka and, possibly, South Africa very soon.
During the opening of yet another Peugeot showroom located in Johor, Southern Malaysia, Datuk Samson Anand George, the COO of Nasim, said, “Malaysia represents a very Japanese and South Korean influenced market when it comes to their choice of cars, so they sell very well here. However as European cars are known for their style, technology, safety and driveability, they are certainly competing with Japanese and South Korean cars. Our market research experience has shown that Malaysians are becoming more geared towards European styled cars with prices that are competitive with the Japanese and South Korean brands, and that is what we are offering. When we took over in 2008, we faced some difficulties because no one wanted to be our dealer, giving us a wait and see approach. People were generally sceptical that we could re-market this brand. But now our turn around has led to the country making up 80% of sales in the region with Singapore following closely.”
As was alluded to by Datuk Samson that Nasim has been working hard to reposition the brand for the next generation of Peugeot wannabies and, in particular, for ‘generation-next’, so it will come as no shock that Nasim has been trying to appeal to younger customers. The fact is that many of the offering available in Malaysia tend to be smaller and zippier, and designed very much to appeal to the 20-something crowd.
Mohd Yasser Awan Mohd Yunus, the Manager in charge of Product Management and Market Research at Nasim, was recently quoted as saying, “A car is more than a box or a vehicle to get you from A to B. It’s a lifestyle symbol and we wanted the brand that was once a niche to offer more mainstream and affordable products. For example, we tied up with the Malaysian Fashion Week 2 years ago and, through this, we had the opportunity to expose our products to a different segment of society. Our Facebook Page now stands at 180 000 likes and we continue to be actively involved in social media because that is how we engage the youth.”
The Peugeot range in Malaysia would certainly seem to reflect the smaller sportier theme, but Nasim claim that the demographic of Peugeot drivers is currently in the 30-something range and are urban professionals, many of whom have experience working overseas.
Datuk Samson, who was speaking in Penang at the opening of the new Citroen 3S centre in Juru, seems to have his hands full at the moment. Whilst the anticipated sales of the Citroen DS4 and DS5 are somewhat modest at a mere 200 units this year, there are plans to open at least 3 more 3S service centres next year in Malaysia, namely in Ampang , Puchong and Johor Bahru. The new showrooms will cover about 6000sqf and cost approximately MYR2 million each to build.