When it comes to buying a pre-owned car in Malaysia, the overall process used to be quite arduous. From online research to meeting private sellers or visiting car lots, there was always a huge potential for things going sideways, for both the buyer and seller. This is where Carsome, Southeast Asia’s largest integrated e-commerce platform, comes into play. Its recent launch of its experience centre, Carsome PJ Automall, featuring an end-to-end car buying experience, aims to mitigate the usual p
l pain points associated with used car purchases. “We are keen to solve customers’ pain points in the used car market by providing quality assurance and peace of mind for our customers, all while creating an end-to-end vehicle ownership ecosystem powered by technology and data,” said Alan Cheah, country general manager of Carsome Certified Malaysia. A new start Located along the Federal Highway in the iconic Naza Automall showroom in Kuala Lumpur, the PJ Automall occupies a built-up space of over 100,000 sq ft. It can accommodate more than 200 cars – from its growing online inventory of over 1,600 cars – from SUVs, MPVs, 4x4s, sedans, hatchbacks to the luxury line segment. “The Automall offers customers a unique one-stop car buying experience from the moment they walk in, to the moment they leave. It allows them to view, select and test drive over 200 available cars from our growing online inventory of over 1,600 cars,” Cheah added. Once consumers make up their mind, they can apply for a loan from the dedicated banking partners on-site and receive approval within a day. They can also consider detailing or tinting services before driving their new car home. The company hopes to bring more ancillary services to other centres across the country soon. Moreover, with the rising trend of electric vehicles (EV) being adopted in the Malaysian marketplace, the company is exploring the possibilities of having more EV charging stations in their experience centres. “Electric vehicles (EVs) are an up and rising trend globally. With the Malaysian government actively pushing for more EV use through supportive measures such as import duty exemption, we believe we will see more EVs on the road in the near future,” Cheah noted. A lifestyle-centric approach The company’s novel approach towards elevating the car buying experience through its online-to-offline hybrid offering in the Malaysian marketplace is certainly something consumers have been craving for. “Our motivation is to make our customers’ car-buying experience lifestyle-centric and hassle-free, where they can walk in to enjoy the shopping process with peace of mind. That is when we opened our first experience centre in 2020, along with introducing ‘The New Way of Buying Cars’ concept,” said Cheah. Through this concept, customers can buy their next ride or even sell their car in just one visit. After that, they can either self-collect their new car or have it delivered to their doorstep. This service has been expanded to 14 experience centres across Peninsular Malaysia. “More importantly, we want customers to leave the worry of the daunting car-buying process to our dedicated teams and partners from financial solutions to car detailing and tinting,” he added. Bricks-and-mortar still relevant The automotive industry has traditionally focused on physical showrooms, and the rapid digital transformation in the industry has not made it less important. “While the pandemic accelerated digitalisation, the ‘human touch’ remains an important element in the car ownership journey – customers want to see the cars in person and test drive them before making up their minds,” Cheah said. Despite the rise of e-commerce, customers still prefer the experience of visiting a physical showroom. “Who would have thought one could walk in and buy a pre-owner car like walking into a shop to buy shoes, this is why the Automall is here to address this need?” he said. According to Cheah, the used car industry in Malaysia is projected to grow this year, and demand is increasing. For 2022, the Federation of Motor and Credit Companies Association of Malaysia estimates the pre-owned car sales to grow circa 12 per cent year-on-year to 480,000 units. “This might be due to the pandemic, where people prefer to have personal transportation to avoid any form of contact to reduce their exposure to Covid-19, as such, consumers feel it is safer to buy and own a car rather than relying on public transport,” he noted. The journey ahead Cheah is excited about the future trajectory of Carsome. Back in February, its launch of the Carsome Certified Lab, the largest car refurbishment facility in the region, at over 185,000 square feet, was a major step forward in transforming pre-owned cars to be as good as new. With the ability to refurbish up to 2,000 cars per month, this was a new benchmark for the region. Each car goes through a stringent 175-point inspection, and then the bulk of investment is spent on mechanical and general repair, body and paint, as well as car detailing. The work in the lab covers all parts of the car, including internal, external, engine, transmission, suspension, steering, electrical and electronic components. The company hopes to open additional Certified Labs in the next 12 months across Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. The Malaysian consumer Cheah noted that the increasing digitalisation has cultivated a preference for convenience among Malaysian consumers. “Besides transparency and quality-assuredness, customers nowadays seek convenience when buying and selling pre-owned cars. This is why providing a hassle-free process is an essential component in their car buying experience – from viewing to test driving, to making the transaction for purchase,” he added. Customers in Malaysia receive quality assurance and peace of mind with a one-year warranty, five-day money-back guarantee and fixed prices. Financing is also another pain point that is managed at the centres. “Partnering with financial institutions makes sense to provide a hassle-free car-buying journey for our prospective customers. Having them on-site in one place is part of our goal to offer convenience and comfort in a one-stop centre, where customers can buy their preferred car and process their loan applications within a day,” he added. Staying ahead of the game Back in April this year, Carsome was said to be raising $300 milion to $400 million at a valuation of about $2 billion for its upcoming IPO on Nasdaq, as reported by DealStreetAsia. It was also reported that the company will be seeking a dual listing at the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) too. Cheah feels that the company has created an industry standard for quality and holistic services in the pre-owned car marketplace. He believes that their car reconditioning facility, Carsome Certified Labs, has raised the bar of quality for pre-owned cars. “As we believe obsessively in quality at the highest level, our rigorous 175-point inspection, state-of-the-art refurbishment process, and being the first in the market to offer a one-year warranty and five-day money-back guarantee, these are all aimed to deliver peace of mind to customers with quality refurbished cars,” he noted.