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We are fearless against our competitors: BMW chief

Update: July, 21/2014 - 10:10
Sergio Solero, managing director of BMW Group Asia. — VNS Photo
The luxury car market has been buzzing this year with the appearance of new brands and models. But Sergio Solero, managing director of BMW Group Asia, tells Viet Nam News his company is not fazed by competition.

Tell us about the company's growth in sales in the region and in Viet Nam? To what do you attribute this growth at such a difficult time for the economy?

Globally, our group has been performing well with more than 1 million vehicles sold to customers in the first six months of 2014.

In Viet Nam too we have been growing with more than 950 units sold in 2013. Sales in the first half of 2014 saw growth of more than 30 per cent year-on-year, and we are convinced that we are on track to break the 1,000-unit level this year.

We attribute the growth to our strong brand presence and relentless efforts to expand our product portfolio to serve our customers locally.

Recently we have also expanded our sales and service network with a brand-new, full-fledged facility in Ha Noi for better customer reach and greater service capacity of up to 2,000 cars per month.

Being customer-oriented, our focus is not just about delivering the best product but also the best sales and after-sales experience.

How important is the Vietnamese market to your company's business strategy?

Viet Nam offers plenty of opportunities with a growing economy and a thriving young population. And as far as our operations in the East Asia region are concerned, Viet Nam contributes about 10 percent of our sales, which is quite significant.

We are also discussing some additional investments in Viet Nam with our partner Euro Auto, which involves the setting up of a new facility in HCM City in the near future.

Additionally, we will be opening a completely refurbished showroom at our Pasteur showroom in HCM City, which will house our high-performance M cars alongside our top range 7 Series super saloon and 6 Series sportscar.

The MINI showroom, which opened in Ha Noi last month.

The reception for our first MINI showroom, which opened in Ha Noi last month, has been good and we are confident that it has a bright future.

The Vietnamese luxury car market has been abuzz since the beginning of this year, with some companies introducing new models and others planning to enter the market. How do you plan to take on such intense competition?

We are fearless against our competitors, and are prepared for the challenges ahead.

Having entered the Viet Nam market around 20 years ago, we have since established our position firmly as a premium car brand of choice and account for about 30 per cent of the local premium car market share after continuous growth between 2006 and 2013.

To ensure we stay on top of our game, we have adopted a strong product offensive strategy, introducing not just new products to the market but also new advanced technologies such as Efficient Dynamics, which works based on the principle of achieving more power without compromising on fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions.

We will soon introduce our Advanced Diesel engines which are also powered by our Efficient Dynamics technology. With a travelling range of more than 1,000km per full tank, these highly efficient Advanced Diesel models can potentially take you from HCM City to Ha Noi with a single refill.

The next phase of Efficient Dynamics technology can even include other advanced options such as ActiveHybrid or even Plug-in Hybrid cars.

And lastly, in the far future, we can even consider introducing electric vehicles (EVs) when the local market has the necessary infrastructure like public charging stations to support it. This will however require some level of Government support in the form of incentives for consumers to adopt EVs to encourage its widespread adoption.

Do you plan to begin production in Viet Nam?

The current business model with our product portfolio has been serving our customers well thanks to the effort put in by our local partner Euro Auto.

Conversely, a local assembly plant will suffer from the lack of an economy of scale to benefit our customers.

What would you suggest to the Government for developing the auto industry?

In order for the auto industry to continue its growth, there must be sufficient roads and infrastructure to support this. But with the increased demand for cars, traffic jams will be inevitable especially when big cities like HCM City and Ha Noi continue to urbanise.

As urbanisation takes place, issues like overcrowding and pollution will emerge. Therefore, the Government should consider introducing incentives to encourage consumers to use greener and cleaner cars. This will help ensure a better environment for everyone in the city, both drivers and pedestrians.

From the auto industry perspective, the Government can consider positioning itself as an integral part of the global supply chain, making the country a global supplier of certain high-tech parts and components as opposed to the current focus on assembling cars.

With its young workforce, Viet Nam can consider putting them through vocational training to equip them with the technical skills the auto industry needs. In due time, they will be able to contribute significantly to the proposed development plan.

One good way would be for Viet Nam to position itself as a supplier of components to the region in the medium- and long-term future. However, this will require Viet Nam to have suppliers of high-tech components, something that is lacking currently.

In terms of the legal framework, it would be ideal if the Government can make cars more affordable for locals through reduction in taxes and duties on them or to alternatively reward cars that are greener and cleaner for the environment.

The building of more roads will also be a key contributor to the development of the car industry. As the car market flourishes, it will lead to job creation and bring about greater technological progress in the auto industry. — VNS

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