MD of Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia Erik Winter on making continuous inroads in the digital sphere

Since last year, a double-digit percentage of Volkswagen's total sales has come through its eShowroom.

Winter: "We are now 100% digitally focused when it comes to our sales and aftersales offerings." (All photos: Volkswagen)

The managing director of Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia shares how the company has adapted digitally, making online car purchases a breeze.

Options: Volkswagen has always been a brand that has embraced digitalisation. How has the pandemic accelerated things?
Erik Winter: The pandemic pushed us to adapt, and adapt we have. We are now 100% digitally focused when it comes to our sales and aftersales offerings. Even before the pandemic, we recognised online was where we needed to be. Over the past four years, we have had huge milestones in the digital sphere via several eCommerce initiatives. We worked with Lazada on several highly successful projects, with a key highlight being 11 units of a limited-edition Polo sold out in just a minute.

We also worked with Shopee during its 7.7 sales festival. When the first MCO [Movement Control Order] was implemented, we were fast to act. We were the first automotive brand to set up an eShowoom for customers to book their cars online. We also launched #SafeHands in response to the pandemic, for customers’ peace of mind. The initiative was developed in line with our brand principles of being ‘digital first’ and ‘people first’. Now, the entire vehicle purchasing process is made even more convenient, to the point that customers can request free delivery of their brand-new Volkswagen. We have also adapted and digitalised our aftersales processes.

Can you tell us more about it?
We launched the Volkswagen eShowroom fully aware that the Malaysian consumer was comfortable with the idea of purchasing a car online, and its ongoing success really is proof of this. Since its launch in April 2020, a double-digit percentage of our total sales has come through our eShowroom. Our #SafeHands initiative also covers our aftersales business. Now, customers are able to enjoy the service experience literally in the comfort of their homes.


The main page of Volkswagen's eShowroom

It starts with the convenience of making an appointment from our website or the Volkswagen Cares mobile app and choosing to have your vehicle collected and returned to wherever you are. Here, our mobile app is essential to owners, as their free maintenance vouchers and other benefits are located in the app. Once at the service centre, the vehicle goes through a complimentary five-star service check. With our service cam, the detailed ‘health check’ is done with video recording and sent to the owner. Should additional repair work be needed, a video link detailing it, together with an e-quotation, is sent to the owner, who can make an informed decision before proceeding. Payment is also done online.

Of course, hygiene and sanitisation are part of the service, and all the vehicles are sanitised after collection and before drop-off. It is a system that has been very well received — six out of 10 owners have opted to use our online service booking and service cam for their scheduled car service. This clearly shows that Volkswagen owners are more digital-savvy, and really see the added value and convenience.

How has 2021 been treating you — personally as well as professionally?
Professionally, 2020 taught us a lot and, because of this, we were very well prepared for 2021. I have had to learn to adapt to the new norm of working from home and being ‘digital and online’ most of the day. Being a father of three, believe me when I say it wasn’t easy at first. I have also managed to make more for time for myself and enjoy cycling when I can.

What have been the most important tech tools you’ve embraced since the pandemic hit?
Definitely Microsoft Teams. It is now an essential. I cannot imagine how we could run without it. The entire company worldwide stays in touch via Teams, and we have managed to conduct meetings and even after-work online ‘social sessions’. We can basically say the Microsoft Teams replaced our transportation for onsite business meetings, not only in Malaysia.

How do you keep yourself and your team focused, inspired and motivated amid all the uncertainty?
I believe in leading by example and teamwork. Stay positive and try to stay connected as much as we can through short ‘update meetings’, for example. When the pandemic hit, the team had to really pull through, adapt and reset from what we were used to. We managed to rise to the occasion while delivering great results and coming up with innovative new ideas. I am also very proud of our dealer partners, which adapted and successfully increased their digital presence. I also believe part of this is because of our internal philosophy of #WeNotMe, a way to show solidarity and something firmly anchored in our work culture.

Did you always want to work with cars?
I have always had an interest in cars and have been in the automotive industry since 2000, when I joined Porsche Holding Salzburg, and it has been nothing but exciting, working on different brands in different countries.

What are you driving?
The Passat Elegance. As the world’s bestselling sedan, it offers a dynamic driving experience, is great on comfort and very fuel-efficient. It’s an executive sedan with all the space I need for my family.


The Passat Elegance is one of the world’s bestselling sedans

What are you reading and listening to right now?
Since the pandemic, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts, not necessarily automotive-related. I find it a very good and nice way to stay updated, especially while exercising.

Where are you looking forward to travelling to once the borders reopen?
Being Dutch, I look forward to travelling to the Netherlands to visit family but, till then and when interstate travel is allowed again, we are happy to continue discovering the beautiful beaches of Malaysia.  


This artice first appeared on June 21, 2021 The Edge Malaysia.


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