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“Before we started selling Hino, there were only 1 to 2 Hino trucks on the road. Many of the fleet companies here had never heard of the brand before. Initially, it was really tough but Hino Motor Sales (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (HSMS) was very supportive; they provided us all their support to help us to build the brand,” said Director Kelvin Lee.
To help the company penetrate the market, HMSM even accepted the company’s suggestion of adding this tagline – ‘Hino, a subsidiary of Toyota Group’ – in all of Hino’s truck leaflets and brochures. “This was a great help as Toyota was already an established brand in the Kota Kinabalu market at that time.”
Today, FF Automobile carries a full range of Hino products and has more than 100 fleet customers. “Our sales come mainly from prime movers. Since the launch of the 700 Series, we are able to capture more market share as fleet operators are looking for higher horsepower. The 700 Series is powered by a Euro 3 engine with maximum output of 309kW (420hp) at 1,800rpm. This is the first time that Hino came up with such big horsepower; the previous 500 Series delivered only 350hp. In addition, performance, reliability and reasonable pricing forged a winning combination. We delivered 200 units of the 700 Series and this earned us the Dealer of the Year for 2016.”
Compared to the Chinese brands, he stressed that Hino trucks were more reliable and durable with lower operation and maintenance cost. Moreover, the resale value was higher.
Numbers do not always tell the whole story about a dealership’s performance. Hino said what differentiated FF Automobile from the others was its passion and dedication to the truck business and the Hino brand with a ‘sincere interest’ in its customers. This company was always looking for a better way of doing things with a willingness to consider and explore new business opportunities.
“Apart from Hino’s monthly promotions, as a Hino brand ambassador, we always take the initiative to boost the brand awareness. For instance, we conduct weekly road shows and make sure that our sales personnel find new leads and visit potential customers. In 2015, we invited all of our Sabah customers to the Hino Appreciation Night at the Sutera Harbour Resort, Kota Kinabalu,” Kelvin said.
Behind the company is a father and son team. About 7 years ago, Kelvin joined his dad Lee Fui Foh, who is the founder, to run the company. To better equip himself with the necessary product knowledge and skills, he took the initiative to ask Hino for training. He spent eight months of product training at the Hino headquarters in Petaling Jaya.
“We know the importance and efficiency of aftersales service. Being a 3S centre since we started with Hino in 2006, we have a well-equipped workshop to handle all preventive maintenance, medium and major repairs as well as car wash and painting; it is staffed by 50 mechanics. Our workshop is able to handle more than 20 vehicles per day.”
The workshop is situated on a 1-acre lot with administrative office and showroom, which Kelvin claimed was the longest in Sabah.
“We keep more than 70 Hino trucks in stock during the good times to shorten vehicle delivery. At the moment, we keep about 30 to 40 trucks due to the economic slowdown. To ensure spare-parts availability, we hold a large stock of fast-moving parts worth about RM700,000, which is far more complete than the Hino branch in Kota Kinabalu. In addition, we offer breakdown services for fleet customers,” he added.
The father and son team believed in a single brand dealership for trucks to avoid a conflict of interest. Dealing with only one truck brand helped them to stay focus and concentrate on building the brand. Apart from the hard work, time and efforts, they said the cost of building a single brand was already so expensive.
Kelvin said when his dad set up the company in 1992, they were dealing in used cars. In 1997, they expanded to include used lorries and then rebuilt trucks in 2004. “Our relationship with Hino started in 2006 and last year was our 10th anniversary as a Hino dealer. This year, we will celebrate our company’s 25th anniversary and our 10th anniversary as a Hino dealer.”
The company won third place in the Sales category and second place in the overall contest of the 3rd Hino Total Support (TS) contest 2016.
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