DRIVING CHANGE

Malaysia 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

BMW Group Malaysia has become a hub in Asia Pacific for the larger group's operations.

Harald Hoelzl
BIOGRAPHY
Harald Hoelzl is the Managing Director of BMW Group Malaysia, having assumed leadership responsibilities in the country in 2018. Hoelzl first began his career with the BMW Group in 2002 and has served in various functions in the sales, marketing, dealer development, and IT departments. He was appointed Head of Marketing at BMW Group Central South Eastern Europe in 2011 before leading the BMW Group’s operations in the Czech Republic.

How do you assess the significance of BMW Malaysia for the group's global operations?

BMW started operations in Malaysia in 2003, and a great deal has happened in these 16 years. People tend to think we just sell cars and provide maintenance services together with our dealers; however, we have developed significantly. A great example is our parts distribution center in Johor Bahru, where we cater to 23 countries in Asia Pacific with original spare parts. We have also started cooperating with Sime Darby Auto Engineering (SDAE) in Kulim Hi-Tech Park to assemble cars locally. Together, we unveiled a new engine assembly facility in 2018 where we assemble three- and four-cylinder engines. For over a decade now, we have been running a regional training center that caters to more than 20 countries in Asia Pacific and beyond, as we have people coming from the US and Canada for special trainings that are only available in English in Munich or Kuala Lumpur. In the same building, we have a group data center as well. BMW Group Malaysia also oversees a financial services entity that was launched in 2007 to provide financing to both our dealers and customers. Together with our dealer network, which has grown significantly since BMW established itself in Malaysia, BMW Group Malaysia now comprises 24 entities in the country. As such, there is a greater significance than just selling cars. Truly, BMW Group Malaysia has developed into a hub in Asia Pacific for BMW Group.

How do you assess your current share of the market in Malaysia?

BMW Group Malaysia is the fastest-growing premium manufacturer in the country, and it will continue to be. We are confident about the new products we will be introducing in 2019, which will capitalize on our strong market momentum and customer centric dealer network. They are reliable partners who are constantly working to improve in every facet of their business. The BMW Group is in the middle of its largest product model offensive, so people can expect more exciting models from us. Additionally, we are always looking for opportunities to strengthen our position in Malaysia. As an innovation-based company, we make a great partner for the Malaysian government, which is seeking partners and organizations that can help drive its agenda on innovation. We can meaningfully contribute in this respect and seek to establish an even stronger working partnership with the government.

What are the particular characteristics of the Malaysian market for BMW Group?

The market was volatile in 2018 with the general elections, which left a rather substantial impact on our sales figures. Aside from this one-off occurrence, Malaysia is characterized by tremendous growth, which is also reflected in the forecasts for the performance of the national economy. In 2H2018, Malaysia was the best-performing market in Asia Pacific for the BMW Group, with BMW's engine assembly contributing to its growth in the region. Hence, we are confident in the future. One particular characteristic of the local consumer market is that the premium segment of the market differs substantially from others when it comes to the drivetrains we offer. Almost 60% of our deliveries in Malaysia come from plug-in hybrid vehicles, the highest record in the world for the BMW Group.

How do you assess the sensitivity of Malaysian consumers to innovation and new models?

The local consumer market is open to innovative technology and new things in general. Social media applications are highly utilized here, and we have been successful with every launch that involved truly innovative elements. We were successful with plug-in hybrid vehicles and most recently with the BMW i8 Roadster—all of which drew tremendous social media response. Our next goal is to bring in electric cars to Malaysia, which could happen as early as this year.