At One Automotive Group, a focus on evolving customer needs and want has made Dato Billy Goh one of Hyundai’s best performing car dealers. By V. Bharathi

Rising from his teenage years when he used to wander around in the backyard of his father’s used and import car centre to his current position as Chief Executive Officer and Director of his companies, one would assume he has arrived and seen it all.

“Not so fast, though it has been an interesting journey, no doubt,” says Dato Billy Goh, as he gears himself up to stay at the pinnacle of his growing business in the world of cars, which had in 2013 cemented his position as one of the top Hyundai car dealers in the country.

“Continuous improvement in order to maintain the momentum is the key of the business,” he says.

His success has been grounded by a management style governed by good old fashion hard work with a smile that is essential ingredient in a competitive automotive business environment.

To Goh, the key to his continued success has been his ability to deal right with his customers.

The edge that you must have in a car business, says Goh, lies in how you deal with potential customers shopping around for the best deal in town, when explaining the importance of keeping up with customers’ evolving tastes and needs.

“We must remember we are in a very customer-oriented business where buying a car has to be right,” as he adds, “The stakes are high and where a slight slip on our part makes the difference between success and failure.”

He explains: “The people nowadays are open to new things where perceptions are evolving. So we need to move around, network and see what is going on in the industry. It’s important for us to stay on top in meeting the expectations of our customers. It’s a question of survival.”

In 2012 the Hyundai Motor Company invested RM1million (mn) to establish the Asia Pacific Hyundai Training Academy(APAC-HTA) designed to assist its dealers, sales and service staffs to achieve a more professional and systematic approach to meet evolving customers needs. “That how serious Hyundai management is this respect,” says Goh.

There was enormous word-of-mouth about Goh’s showrooms and its services, which proved helpful to business.

In 2013, Goh and his team sold a record 1,070 Hyundai cars of various models, which represented a remarkable feat compared to his early years. It is a kind of fire in the belly that has given him this stunning number and rose to become the best improved dealership in the country.

Growing your own business

Goh’s journey in growing stature and success began in Batu Pahat, his hometown, with the family’s used car business founded by his father, Saxon Goh in 1991.

Having earlier worked for the EON group since 1987, his father’s four year stint as a sales person gave the senior Goh the necessary exposure of the car business.

For him, there was more to life that taking a salaried job. He wanted to be his own man with good earnings. The sign pointed one way: to start a used car business.

First he had to deal with his son. Seeing him restless at times, his father packed him off to Australia in 1999 to complete his studies and in 2002 age 22, Goh returned home armed with a degree in Business and Finance. The father had plans for his son.

It was 2002, the turn of a new century. Goh’s passion for cars remained and he was full of hope that better days would come. He mulled over his career options.

He made two important decisions: first to stay with his father and second to persuade his father to make some significant changes in the car business.

“I understood the auto sector and realised it will be a growth story in the coming years”, says Goh. That optimism was governed by the country’s strong economic growth pushing millions of people into the middle-class bracket. For families, living comfortably meant having a car, and more cars if necessary.

But a dose of realism was needed.

In expanding their car business, three tasks were essential to boost public confidence: to strengthen the company’s financial position, to move sales from used cars to new cars and to ensure the right services are provided to customers.

In 2002, the change came when the father and son team sought and won the right to a franchise to sell Hyundai cars. And that responsibility fell solely on Goh junior.

It was indeed a major responsibility for a 22-year-old. Says Goh: “Once inside, it was a huge learning process because there were many things I wasn’t ready for, simply because I didn’t know. I learnt more after attending meetings and rubbing shoulders with the experienced people I came across and certainly from my father, too.”

Still hurdles remained

Hyundai cars and Korean models in general were little known a decade ago in a competitive environment that was dominated by the Proton and Perodua, and indeed far superior Japanese models.

Goh says sales initially were rather small but the consolidation process of Hyundai operations in the country, which saw the entry of Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors (HSDM) in 2009, proved to be a turning point.

It brought stability to the marketplace, more than 100 showrooms opened throughout the country, and experienced people were brought in.

The launch of best-selling models such as the Tucson and the Sonata in 2010, followed by MD Electra in 2012 and the new luxurious Santé Fe in 2013 saw the profile of Hyundai cars rise in the marketplace. Sales soared and by end 2013, 12,400 cars were sold.

Why do Hyundai cars sell well now, I asked? Goh says this Korean success is attributed to several factors: numerous product choices at competitive price, creative marketing programmes and continuous brand building activities.

He adds: “In order to build customer confidence and perception, more 3s showrooms are being established and I have invested in two, in Batu Pahat and Chan Sow Lin. HSDM management also collaborated with banks in an effort to improve Hyundai used car prices and it has been very successful.

“Frankly, it all boils down to hard work, an innovative mindset and a strong desire to succeed.”

Malaysian consumers responded accordingly, he adds. They went for the attractive, features-rich Hyundai cars and the premium factor came into play due to quality. In having positioned its products well in the marketplace, sale of cars surged.

In fact, the five-year and 300,000km warranty proves to be fruitful, as it gives lots of confidence to customers.

In being part of the mighty Korean chaebols, Hyundai today powers ahead with consistency and purpose as it seeks to consolidate itself as a top five global player.

The transformation process of Hyundai Motors in the past decade has simply been powerful and stunning.

And this is helping an entrepreneur like Goh to notch notable successes in business and where his efforts will be boosted by the completion of an RM8mn expansion project of his two 3s and two 1s Hyundai centres in Kuala Lumpur, Batu Pahat, Muar and Setapak.

In Goh’s scheme of things, as he confidently and quietly scripts his success story at One Automotive, one important factor will always stand out: that the customer is always the life blood to a successful business.