David B Aziz, CEO, MHD talks about new products, facilities and future plans in a freewheeling conversation with Mayank Singh.
How was the year 2012 from a business point of view and what are your plans for financial year 2013?
Business was challenging in 2012, not just in the automotive sector but overall as there are a number of issues and concerns globally, though Oman is better placed than other countries in the region. One of the reasons why the year 2012 proved to be challenging was because there was a change in some of our models, like the Land Rover. As a result we are seeing an extremely high demand for our new models. We have also been busy with the development of our new showroom facilities at Azaiba for our new brands, which are becoming big volume drivers. Overall, the year was not bad but we will be looking at better results this year. It’s been challenging, but this year we are quite happy and optimistic about the product range that we have, our enhanced facilities and the investment that we have made in our Omani staff. Our Omanisation is on the increase in the automotive sector and all this could give us fruitful results in the coming months. The government has planned a RO13bn investment in infrastructure development projects in its ongoing five-year plan and this should boost commercial and passenger vehicle business. These investments should help and benefit every business in the country.
MHD has invested in upgrading its showroom facilities. How is this going to enhance the customer experience?
If you look at our Jaguar showroom you will see that we have developed a multi-storied showroom. It’s a state-of-the-art showroom for our high profile Jaguars with all the facilities. On the top of it, we have the sitting facilities for our new Range Rovers. This is backed up by a new refurbishment facility for Land Rover and Jaguar in our Sohar showroom. To conclude we have the state-of-the-art facility for our MG, BYD and Luxgen at Azaiba 2 which includes a full commercial servicing area for our commercial products.
MHD automotive has acquired new brands like MG, BYD and Luxgen in the last few years. What is the idea behind acquiring these brands?
The idea is to provide the best service to the Omani community. We wanted to touch people’s life on the commercial side so we developed brands such as Ashok Leyland, JMC and CMC. We are also looking at some heavy duty trucks coming through. On top of that we wanted to have products in the volume sector, in the mid-level range. As always we looked at the best products, with a view to provide our customers with the best at the most reasonable prices. Keeping this in mind we acquired three brands – the MG brand from the UK, Luxgen from Taiwan — I am proud to state that MHD Oman is the first in the world to sign an international distributorship agreement with Luxgen outside Taiwan.
Moreover, we set up the first Think Plus Luxgen showroom in the Gulf. It’s a very high-quality product and then we have the BYD a very popular car which has Japanese engineering with German technology. The vehicle has been in the market for the last three years and has proven to be very good, its pricing is very competitive and its quality is improving year-on-year and the response from the public is getting better commensurately. We are in a position to say that we now offer a full range of products which include prestigious cars, commercial products and medium range volume vehicles. On top of this we have a very strong used car operations, which has been going on for 10 years now which offer quality used cars to our customers.
The 2013 Range Rover has been one of the most anticipated launches of the year. What are your thoughts on the new Range Rover?
It’s absolutely phenomenal. The vehicle has gone from strength-to-strength and we are very pleased with that. The new vehicle comes with a full aluminium body, which is 420 kilograms lighter than the previous model. It is equipped with a 510 brake horse power super charged engine, with a new eight change selective gear box. It has all the top refinements, state-of-the art entertainment system, aerospace technology, the finest leather and quality systems that one can aspire for. The response has been phenomenal, with sales being way above our product availability. We have started deliveries and there are more to come in the coming weeks and months. We also expect an increase in our entire product line-up, including the Land Rover and the Evoque which is proving to be an excellent vehicle. The new shaped LR2 2013 and LR4 continue to grow, and we have the Range Rover sport which has been our all time best seller in all its derivatives for years.
The Range Rover Sport is being phased out by the end of 2013. Will that have an impact on your sales?
It will have some impact as people are always on the lookout for new models; but as things stand it is selling very well and we are a long way away from new model as of now.
How has the performance of brand Jaguar been in Oman in the last couple of months?
Jaguar continues providing us with top quality and very refined vehicles. The XF is coming with new engine derivatives — it has a new two litre, three litre turbo engines and five litre engines. We also have the new XJ which is a long wheel base vehicle with new engine derivatives. It offers the most refined and luxurious interiors in its segment. There is a new F type, which will be joining the brand and other models soon. New colours, trim and accessories along with our enhanced showroom facilities have been getting us a very positive customer response.
Is MHD strengthening its distribution network across the Sultanate?
We have a presence in Muscat, Sohar and Salalah. The Sohar showroom has been refurbished with Land Rover and Jaguar specified specifications and furniture. As new models come up we are always on the move. We are looking at facilitating our customer needs in other places too as our business grows and develops.
Have you strengthened your after sales service and parts availability in the last one year?
We have cut our spare part prices by 35 per cent and have been getting a lot of gratitude and thanks from the entire Omani community for this move. This across the board price reduction was done to help the people of this country six months ago. The decision was taken in consultation and association with Consumer Credit Protection agencies and it was announced that all our parts across all our brands were to be slashed by 35 per cent. This makes us the most competitive company in the Gulf, from a parts pricing perspective. We see this as a national responsibility and we wanted to do something that would help and support people.
Is Omanisation a focus area for MHD. If yes, in what ways are you working towards this goal?
As a company we have developed the MHD Training Institute in association with the Ministry of Manpower in Darsayt. At the institute we take Omanis, train them in different skills like technical, engineering, automotive, so that they can take on jobs in various sectors of the economy. We train and certify people not only for MHD but also for other companies. We are working closely with the Ministry of Manpower and Labour. The Institute has won numerous awards for its dedication and service to the community. Within the organisation we have a number of Omanis who are reaching high managerial positions.