The Business Year

Thomas Milz

UAE, DUBAI - Industry

All in the Design

Managing Director, Volkswagen Middle East

Bio

Thomas Milz was born in 1968 and is the Managing Director at Volkswagen Middle East. He began his career at Volkswagen in 1997 as a Product Manager, later moving to the US. He has occupied several other positions in the company, and was Director of Sales for Europe North-West from 2009 to 2012 before being appointed to his current position.

"We are in an incredibly exciting stage of Volkswagen Middle East’s development."

What led to such a fantastic 2012?

There are a number of factors that made 2012 such a successful year for Volkswagen. For example, we launched a number of products tailor-made to the needs and wants of our Middle East customers, including the Passat and the Polo Sedans. When you look at the market in the Middle East or Dubai, it is very similar to the US market, with the biggest segments being SUVs and sedans. Volkswagen provides German engineering at a price that fits the Middle East. Another factor is our investment in new and existing facilities and our continuing focus on service excellence. We opened new facilities in 2012 and we are currently planning the opening of new state-of-the-art service centers and showrooms in key markets later in 2013.

Out of all the models here in Dubai, which ones are poised for the most growth in the coming months?

We have two product sectors that we believe have the strongest growth potential: sedans and SUVs. In terms of sedans, we have the Polo sedan, the Jetta, and the Passat. In the SUV category we have the Tiguan, which is A-class, a smaller SUV, and the Touareg, which is our most successful model in the Middle East. Then, of course, we have the iconic Golf GTI, which is an extremely popular model with our customers across the region. We expect the Golf GTI to be available in 3Q2013, and it will offer an even more striking and sporty design, a 10 HP and 70 NM increase of torque and a guarantee of the highest fun factor ever experienced in a GTI.

“We are in an incredibly exciting stage of Volkswagen Middle East’s development.”

Speaking of safety, how important is it in a region like this?

At Volkswagen, we make great cars that are fun to drive, but it is safety that is always of the utmost importance to us. The road safety record in the Middle East could be better, which is why people really need to consider safety features when choosing a new car. Customers of Volkswagen know that safety is integral to the design and engineering of every car we develop, which is why eight of our models were recently named 2013 Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the US.

Why are SUVs and family cars so popular in the region?

In my opinion this can be attributed to a number of factors. For example, there are cultural influences, which can probably be attributed to the predominance of large family units with locals across the Gulf. I also think there may be a misconception that the bigger a car is, the safer it is. For a number of technical reasons this is not always the case. However, with regards to Volkswagen, we consistently engineer our cars to make sure that the best possible systems and support are provided for both the driver and passengers.

Do you think it is possible to top the growth you had in 2012?

It was certainly successful for Volkswagen Middle East in terms of sales growth and our aim is to build on that success in 2013 and then year-on-year. With the support of our regional partners, Volkswagen Middle East remains committed to providing its customers with the world-class products and service excellence they demand and expect. We know that in order to continue to be successful and to drive the Volkswagen brand forward we need ongoing investment in our facilities, customer service, and the launch of new models, which is exactly what we are delivering.

Volkswagen has plans to roll out seven new facilities in the GCC. How are these plans progressing?

We are in an incredibly exciting stage of Volkswagen Middle East’s development. The introduction of these new facilities not only demonstrates our continued growth, but also our commitment to the region. In the UAE, we will be launching state-of-the-art dealerships in Sharjah and in Fujairah. In Qatar we have just opened a brand new service facility, which we are now in the process of moving into. Also, in Qatar we have a brand new, state-of-the-art showroom that will open later in 2013. We are currently planning a new facility in Oman close to the airport and expect this to be open in 2014. And finally, we are planning to build the biggest showroom in the world in Kuwait, so there are exciting times ahead.

What makes this Emirate unique amongst all of the regions?

The biggest difference between Dubai and the other Emirates, and even other countries across the region, is the large population of expatriates. This obviously offers Volkswagen a great opportunity because many of these Dubai-based expatriates come from Asia and Europe and have had more exposure to Volkswagen and understand that it is a brand synonymous with quality and great engineering. Whilst these expatriates contribute greatly to our sales, the local populations are also strong Volkswagen supporters. Volkswagen Middle East has built a solid customer base throughout the region and we intend to continue to work in close partnership with all of our regional dealers to promote our rich heritage and great engineering, all of which will continue to replicate our success in Dubai across the region on a wider scale.

How well developed is the new car market?

Customers in the region generally keep their cars for three to five years, although some enthusiasts buy the latest Volkswagen model every 12 months. That is why we now offer a three-year warranty and most of our cars have a five-year warranty, whereby the dealers add two years.

Looking ahead to this year and into 2014, what are your targets?

We will follow the strategy we are already implementing. Our targets are in line with the growth of our business, and as we achieve these targets we will continue to invest in our dealers and in our products. Volkswagen is known for being a superior product and this is where we continuously make our investments to ensure we provide German engineering for everyone. Providing service excellence and offering our customers the best possible service packages are also always top priorities for us.

© The Business Year – May 2013

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