Ultra Gallant is Isuzu’s Commercial Vehicle Dealer For the Long Haul
The Ultra Gallant Group, which began operations way back in 2005, is a well-established industry player in the commercial trucks industry. Automology spoke to Joshua Khoo, the second-generation owner of the family business, and Ananth, the Service Manager, on how they are in it for the long haul.
A: Firstly, tell us a bit about the history of the company and your experience?
J: Ultra Gallant established our headquarters in Seremban with the Isuzu brand. We then expanded to other locations, such as in Klang (where we are now) and Nilai. We incorporated—or rather we bought—a shelf company sometime in the mid-nineties and started offering HICOM trucks.
In 2005, we entered into a dealership contract with Isuzu and in 2011, we moved to our 3S showroom in Seremban. This place here in Klang began its operations in April 2014. Prior to that, I was in the Seremban outlet for about a year. Before that, I did my actuarial studies—calculations, insurance, etc—and worked in Allianz for a couple of years. This is more challenging but enjoyable at the same time—a different game altogether.
A: The showroom in Seremban is massive and you have a sizeable place here too.
J: Yes, the one in Seremban is about 3 acres. We have extra space in Klang, so we intend to consolidate with our after-sales department. We have been making progressive steps with the local council—there are layers of approval that we need to go through and each step has a deadline—if a step is not met within that deadline, then we have to extend it or start again. But we are making positive inroads and it’s only a matter of time before all our operations are in one place.
A: Presently, the service centre is on the other side of town..,not too far. I believe it was formerly a fuel station?
J: Yes, it was and yes, it’s on the other side of town. But to make it convenient for the customer as well as for ourselves, we are looking at getting the service centre here up and running. We also have rentals and such to pay over there. So, having it all in one place is definitely better in the long-term.
A: Any idea when that will happen?
J: If all goes well by this year, we’ll start with construction. There are a few steps—the first is the most challenging part. The second is the draggy part, and a lot of factors will come into play. But we hope to convert this place into a full 3S centre very soon.
A: You have the HQ and outlets in Seremban and outlets in Nilai too. Any plans for expansion into other states?
J: At the moment, we want to strengthen existing operations. And then, of course, we will look into expanding into other places.
A: And most of your customers are fleet customers?
J: We have a mix, actually. We have a big number of retail customers too.
A: You also have a big customer that purchases trucks from you…the D.I.Y Group?
J: Yes. The transaction was made at the Seremban branch but, of course, they have trucks plying the entire route from North to South and we cater to their servicing needs. And yes, they are a very big customer.
A: And your closest competitor is…?
J: Hino would be our closest competitor in the light-duty and medium-duty segments. Fuso, too, which is a huge brand in Indonesia. Different markets have a different brand as market leader. Over here, we are extremely happy with our partnership with Isuzu.
A: What is the breakdown in sales to fleet and retail customers?
J: There are a lot of repeat retail customers, some due to expansion, others due to wear and tear. So, it would be safe to say that 80% percent of our customers are from retail whereas 20% would be fleet purchase.
A: And you oversee both Sales and Services at the Klang branch? How many people do you have in your team overall?
J: Yes, I do. There about 20 of us running the operations overall. They are from the sales, service and administrative departments.
A: How many vehicles does a salesperson sell in a month?
J: A sales personnel sells about 4 to 6 units on average a month and that is similar to the market average. Once in awhile, there will be a big deal. The salesperson must always have a good relationship with the customer. A good relationship and consistent follow-ups with the customer are crucial.
Apart from trucks, Isuzu has the D-Max and MUX in its lineup and we don’t offer other models. These two alone have many variants; for example, the Diablo, which caters to a different kind of buyer. Isuzu, in a way, tailor-made variants to the customer’s preference. And this is good as it gives customers a variety of options as well as limited editions to excite the public and stir up their interest. And Isuzu specialises in the diesel market.
A: How do you convince a customer to buy an Isuzu instead of from another brand?
J: We always emphasize the three core values of Isuzu: Durability, Maintenance and Fuel Efficiency. These are the cornerstones of the Isuzu brand, its DNA.
Let’s talk about servicing. For the normal service interval of 10,000 kilometres, our price is cheaper by about 50%. That itself is massive savings for the consumer. Yes, other brands may have more features, but these are workhorses; for the business owners running on a tight budget, it’s more important to minimise costs while keeping the vehicle in good running condition throughout its lifetime.
So, these are in line with the values of the Isuzu brand. The engines are very durable and the maintenance costs are much lower compared to other brands. Maintenance-wise, Isuzu is the cheapest across the market!
A: Nowadays, you see the pick-up trucks moving towards the lifestyle market.
J: Yes, yes, Isuzu has limited edition variants of the second generation D-Max, like ‘X-series’, Artic, Beast and the Diablo, which caters to a different kind of customer. Isuzu, first and foremost, will integrate its core values into any model it builds and of course spice it up a bit with limited edition models. For us as business owners, having a quality product with durability and reasonable maintenance fees, coupled with great brand custodians, makes the Isuzu brand a brilliant partner.
A: Now, about the day-to-day. How do you motivate your team?
J: First of all, we have to motivate ourselves (laughs). I think that is extremely important. And when we ourselves are motivated then our team feeds off it. Monetary rewards and recognition are important factors as well, so we have different incentive schemes
We also keep our team updated on the latest market info. Information is very important in any market you are in and it is imperative that the company and leaders equip the team with the right info and tools.
We also have regular gathering like annual dinners, company trips and festivals about 2 to 3 times a year; they foster good relationships among the people. Of course, we have our scheduled meetings for each department on a bigger scale, about 2 to 3 times per year.
From the time we started operations five years ago, I would say that 80% of our staff have remained with us—that is a very good retention rate.
A: Wow. That’s great. They really like working with you.
J: We try our level best to look after our team in whichever way we can. They are an integral part of this company.
A: What are your goals in the coming years?
J: This place here—we want to make it a one-stop centre. As I mentioned, we are looking to get this place consolidated with the servicing operation and then look into expanding it further, like into body and paint, insurance, etc. These are some of the things we intend to do in the near future.
A: It was great talking to you and thank you for your time.
J: No problem at all. Appreciate you coming over and highlighting our company.
We then moseyed over to speak to Ananth, the Service Manager.
A: Tell us about yourself and how you came to work with Ultra Gallant.
A: Actually, I did my IT studies and then entered into the automotive industry. After completing my studies, I worked with a Kia dealer in Seremban as a service advisor for 6 years. After my stint in Kia, I joined Ultra Gallant’s HQ in Seremban for about two years.
When they opened this centre, I moved over here and have been at this branch in Klang for about 5 years. So, all in all, about 11 years in the industry and I’m still learning every day.
A: In the servicing of trucks and pickups, how many are private owners and how many are corporate customers.
A: I would say that for our trucks, 20% of servicing are for private owners and the balance 80% are company-owned vehicles. For the pick-ups, it is the other way around. Most of the D-Max range of vehicles are privately owned.
A: This service centre is able to cater to the prime movers, yes?
A: Yes, we have done quite a few prime movers here. No issue. Our company is looking to consolidate all operations in one place to make it is easier for the customer and our operations. Although the showroom is only about 10 minutes away, the management is looking to make things as convenient as possible.
A: Any major issue that you encounter with the trucks?
A: No, actually. Isuzu make robust vehicles and they have kept that tradition alive throughout the years. You can ask many people about Isuzu vehicles and they will agree with me.
A : How many service bays do you have?
A: We have 5 bays in total. Three are for lighter trucks and two are for the bigger trucks. Isuzu models don’t really have any major issues and, as mentioned earlier, the trucks are very durable.
A: What is your throughput per month on average?
A: I would say around 250 on average every month.
A: Tell us…how do you motivate the staff?
A: Well, we’d like to think of them as associates. Like Mr. Joshua said, we first have to motivate ourselves. The team I have here are all committed to ensuring that the best service is given. At the end of the day, it is how we take care of the customer that counts and it can determine if they purchase another vehicle from us in the future.
A: That’s been most informative. Thank you for your time.
A: Thank you.