• Madani Sahari

Consumers play important role in enhancing local automotive sector

In general, the costs of purchasing and ownership of vehicles in Malaysia are becoming ever more affordable. 

Since the National Automotive Policy 2014 was announced more than 2 years ago, the domestic automotive ecosystem has seen a more competitive sales environment that has undeniably benefited the consumer.

Despite the uncertain economic climate and the appreciation of the US dollar against the ringgit, original equipment manufaturers (OEMs) operating in Malaysia have significantly adapted to the market forces.

Although some carmakers were forced to adjust prices due to stiffer exchange rates last year, sticker prices of passenger cars have overall reduced, with their best performance at the end-2014 (with a 16 percent average reduction).

Furthermore, added factors, such as relatively lower fuel prices, road tax, insurance, maintenance costs and hire-purchase policies, have made the cost of vehicle ownership in Malaysia one of the most competitive in the region.

As we move moves forward through with the industry, it is noteworthy that consumer awareness and behaviour has played an important role in its development. 

Transportation is a key factor to self-actualisation, taking us to points of daily needs - to the workplace, school, and other places of economic activity, worship or recreation – which, in turn, enhances our daily lives.

In many advanced countries, consumer awareness surrounding vehicle ownership, particularly in the areas of vehicle maintenance, safety, and economic literacy, has demonstrated somewhat symbiotic relevance to the competitiveness of their domestic automotive sector.

Consumers having such awareness tend to make better decisions with regards to vehicle purchases, especially in terms of features that best fit their needs and use. 

Knowledge of maintenance and safety aspects of vehicles contributes tremendously towards productivity, well-being and environmental protection.

For example, the strong automotive culture in United States has created a culture of vehicle self-maintenance within consumer homes. 

The knowledge gained by consumers through performing basic maintenance procedures, such as changing engine oil or spark plugs, on their own has spurred better awareness among the public.

As a result, the US market provides one of the widest choices of variants - creating a competitive environment for the manufacturing sector.

Additionally, economic situations fluctuate in cycles, potentially causing hire-purchase policies to change accordingly. 

Consumers that protect their credit worthiness are less susceptible to these changes and would still be able to purchase vehicles even in slow economic tiles. 

Finally, it is imperative that purchasing decisions are not made based on speculation.

Consumers should buy cars based on their current need as the indirect costs associated with delays in the purchase would offset any gains from future changes in price. 

An example would be the loss of trade-in value of a used car as time passes. Therefore, if a consumer needs a car now, he or she needs not wait for prices to reduce further as the losses from the trade-in value will not result in much gain.

Since the National Automotive Policy 2014 was announced, we have seen an increasing number of communication outlets, be it news portals or social channels, that focus on the automotive sector. 

This should be seen as a positive step towards increasing consumer awareness regarding transportation in general. 

It is, therefore important for OEMs, the after-sales sector, government bodies and, especially, the media to play a more aggressive role in enriching the public with awareness on vehicle ownership practices. 

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