Naza Quest Sdn Bhd has announced that, effective from November 15, 2018, it will cease to distribute new Chevrolet vehicles in Malaysia, and sales of the American brand will also be suspended until the brand owner, General Motors, finds a new party to take over as Chevrolet distributor.

Nevertheless, under an agreement between Naza Quest and GM, warranty and aftersales services for all existing owners of Chevrolet vehicles will continue to be available until the new distributor is appointed in due course.

Explaining the development, Dato’ Samson Anand George, Group CEO, Automotive Group, Naza Corporation Holdings Sdn Bhd, said: “We came to this decision as a result of a brand rationalisation plan under the Naza Group’s overall corporate strategy to create long-term sustainability and profitability. We will continue to focus on our other 4 and 2-wheel brands. The Naza Group will maximize its complete automotive line-up and explore other business opportunities to expand its market share in the automotive industry.”

GM and Chevrolet remain committed to Malaysia as strong growth potential is seen and there’s also a loyal fan base. It is understood that the company is in advanced discussions with potential new partners.

“Chevrolet is here to stay in Malaysia and we will be announcing our new distributor partner as soon as possible,” said Vanchana Unakul, General Director of GM Southeast Asia. “I’d also like to thank Naza Quest for their partnership and dedication to the Chevrolet brand over many years,” he said.

Chevrolet cars were sold in Malaysia in the 1950s and this one was used by Tunku Abdul Rahman to travel around during the 1959 elections. The Impala (below) was also assembled locally in the late 1960s.

Chevrolet’s history in Malaysia actually goes back to long before the Japanese brands arrived in the 1960s. However, back then, the models sold were the typically large sedans that were not suited for Malaysian roads. GM had a presence until the late 1970s, selling vehicles under its brands such as Bedford, Vauxhall and Opel but it stopped selling Opel as well in the late 1990s.

In 2002, Chevrolet returned and GM chose that brand for the ASEAN market because it was considered ‘the most international of the GM brands’. The DRB-HICOM Group was chosen to handle the business and models such as the Nabira MPV, Optra and Lumina were sold. The Nabira (earlier known as the Opel Zafira) and Optra, being made in Thailand, had competitive pricing but the Lumina, with its big engine, failed to attract buyers.

First return of the Chevrolet brand in 2002 was handled by a DRB-HICOM subsidiary. Some years later, GM decided to manage the business directly, establishing its own subsidiary and sending in executives (below).

Some years later, GM decided that it wanted to be directly involved in the business and established its own subsidiary to handle marketing and sales. DRB-HICOM was still involved but different objectives and views on strategic direction led to that venture also ending. GM then pulled out and it was only in 2010 that saw Naza Quest being appointed as its distributor, a role which it would have for the next 8 years.

Naza Quest took on the Chevrolet franchise in 2010, starting off with a brand new product called the Cruze. However, in recent years, it has been only the Colorado (below) that has sold in any meaningful numbers.

Perhaps the only Chevrolet Malaysians might like to own is the Camaro but GM has never thought globally like Ford and has never bothered to do a righthand drive version.

GM’s ambitions in Malaysia (and ASEAN) have constantly faced challenges and it could be the American obsession with ‘big numbers’ that has prevented it from having a more realistic approach to business in the region. It has also lacked sufficient insight into market conditions and understanding of consumer requirements to formulate the right strategies. For example, in 2003, a senior GM executive told this writer that he was confident that the company had ‘the perfect product line’ for the Malaysian market and expected to be the 4th bestselling brand in the market within 5 years! In retrospect, perhaps maintaining the Opel brand, which at least had the respect of Malaysian buyers because of its German origins, might have helped GM better.

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[Chips Yap]

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