Photo by stevoarnold

Photo by stevoarnold

Part 8 comes back to Singapore again, and James Sun tackles a very “hot” issue amongst Singaporeans – that of cars. With recent news that COE prices have sky rocketed, this has not made it easy for cars to get sold, especially the smaller, lesser known brands. Though I suspect that this episode could have been filmed some time in 2009, when COE prices had not yet increased to such crazy levels. Still, the principles as articulated in the episode still hold true.

For this episode, James pays a visit to Daniel Au, who is in charge of the distribution of Skoda cars in Singapore. Skoda has a 104-year history and their cars consist of top German engineering, yet brand awareness is weak in Singapore. Skoda gives the impression of being a second-tier brand of car even though technically, it is a continental car and other European car brands have enjoyed immense popularity here in Singapore (e.g. Peugeot and Volkswagon). James mentions that “If you are much weaker than your enemy, avoid him” – implying that Daniel should not compete head on with the stronger competitors, but should instead seek to carve a niche out for Skoda in the local market.

Daniel believes that it is a case of lack of brand awareness, which sounds similar to the problem highlighted in last episode on Zak’s Surfboards. A visit to the showroom finds it pretty deserted, and a simple chat with one of the salespeople (Peter Chin) reveals that he is not confident and the car also does not match up to what was seen on the Internet. The reviewer gave the salesman a 2/10 but the salesman complains that there is a lack of product training and they were only given 2.5 months of training, which was insufficient.

Daniel says Skoda is expanding its range of cars and is bringing in 5 new models next year (I would assume this meant 2010), including sporty ones which should appeal to Singapore’s market (this is true as I see a lot of yuppies driving 2-door model European sports cars). James conducted a simple blind testing and let several car enthusiasts try out the Skoda car (with the brand name and logo concealed), and most of them were very positive on the car and guessed it was either Volkswagon or BMW. They showed surprised when it was revealed to them that the car they had driven was, in fact, a Skoda. Read more…