A selection of Malaysian motoring journalista were given an extension to the recent media drive event, immediately after testing the latest generation Golf 7 in Sardinia.

The 2nd leg of our European trip, squeezed into a flight-packed 4 day trip took us close to the heart of VW land.

We were greeted at the airport by a line of fifth generation VW T5 to transport us to the Hotel and dinner upon arrival in Hannover.  The T5’s transported us again first thing the next morning to Wessendorf, within radius sight of Wolfburg (home of VW). This medium-sized people mover will surely find many admirers in Malaysia given her ruggedness and niche desirability. We wondered if it was a deliberate attempt by VW Malaysia to give a flavour of things to come from the VW Commercial Vehicle Division.

It was at the Sudheide offroad track the next day, that VW had paraded several variants of the Amarok for us to test drive.

The drive included a mixture of scenic country side roads to the famous autobahn and finally some off-road driving at the track.

Firstly, a tankful of season’s greetings & blessings to all Muslims celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Major festive seasons in Malaysia are often welcomed with a mixture of joy and challenge for many service centre Managers.  Traditionally, from as early as a month before Hari Raya or Chinese New Year, appointment bookings for vehicle service & repairs often start filling up faster than the any other time across franchise dealerships and independent workshops.

Walk-in customers without an appointment are often chided and looked upon with disdain when they insist on getting their cars serviced before the customary holiday travel. It is not uncommon to overhear the loud voices of disgruntled customers outweighing the silent majority, patiently awaiting their turn to consult the Service Advisor to accede their special holiday request.

At the forecourt, parking spaces are normally hard to find, cars double-parked and often spilling out of the premises’ gates. The long line of cars awaiting service, affects the smooth production flow of any service centre. Most dealerships today were originally sized for smaller volumes and are land-locked from further expansion, let alone seasonal demands.
“The scenario is exacerbated during the Ramadhan month since most organizations allow their Muslim employees to go home an hour earlier in order to prepare for the breaking of fast at sunset” he added.

Visit your regular service centre today and chances are 1 in 5 that your customer contact staff who used to serve you, is no longer working at your preferred garage. Investigate deeper and the newly assigned Service Advisor (SA) will reveal that the ex-SA is currently working with a competitor or another brand. On further probing, the current SA may volunteer information that the previous Service Manager who worked at the dealership had convinced him to join along with a few more rumoured to leave after the coming bonus.
As an independent Automotive Consultant, the first thing I am often asked when I visit any motor company today is “Can you help us find Service Advisors, Technicians or Aftersales Managers” in that order of priority.

I feel the problem is going to escalate as companies today are not getting to the root cause of this human resource leapfrogging. They rather “play on the back foot” and allow market forces to decide their fate. Unfortunately the hidden cost of employee turnover can amount to 3 to 5 times the basic salaries taking into consideration the entire recruitment, training and retention process. New thinking is required to resolve this current day problem. Most managers today resort to “fighting fire” than crafting long term HR strategies and growing the business.

Little physical similarities exist between protagonist, Uncas, the son of Chingashgook in the titular "Last of the Mohicans" and D Ramachadaran. One most notable similarity however, is the glaring extinction of a unique "tribe" and one often used today as an analogy to depict that things are no longer what the used to be as in this case, the last of the "pure-blooded" Aftersales Managers in the Malaysian Automotive Industry.

There's something nostalgic when Rama (as he is fondly known) reflects on the past 39 years working in the Motor Industry, akin to listening to the movie's soundtrack and being entertained from start to finish.

Rama's story too is screenplay potential. Having completed his vocational education in Automobile Engineering in India, he proceeded to work closes to home with United Plantations in Perak, where he got down and dirty acquiring hands-on experience working on Lister, Cummins and Massey Ferguson engines at the Jendarata estate's workshop.

Most of these engines were used for a wide variety of tasks in the estate, running agricultural equipment and to power electricity generation especially when down time of machines were most critical in order to ensure the plantation operations was never at idle the following day. According to Rama, "it was all about the management concepts we speak of today such as productivity, efficiency, taking orders from the top and going about our duties with pride and passion". Mind you, those were the days when there were railroads within the estate and salaries literally "dropped" out from the sky every month end.

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