Q&A: ‘We’re here for the long haul’

Why it matters for Glenn Tan of Tan Chong International Limited for Subaru to regain its Alabang foothold

Interview by Kap Maceda Aguila

A COUPLE of days before last month’s Manila International Auto Show 2024, Tan Chong International Limited (TCIL) Deputy Chairman and Managing Director Glenn Tan was in Manila to oversee the opening of Motor Image Alabang — the newest of five company-owned Subaru showrooms in the country. Motor Image is a wholly owned affiliate of TCIL (which has interests in things automotive, property, commercial, manufacturing, trading, food and beverage, and distribution) and the exclusive distributor of Subaru vehicles in Singapore, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

The aspiration, said Motor Image Pilipinas, Inc. (MIP) in a release, is to “provide customers with convenient access to the latest Subaru models, and exceptional after-sales services.” Motor Image Alabang is located on the ground floor of the CTP Asean Tower in Filinvest City Central Business District. It boasts a spacious showroom floor that can accommodate six vehicles, private transaction areas, and a “well-appointed lounge.” Subaru previously had a dealership in Alabang — shuttered on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Motor Image Alabang is also a “receiving location for Subaru vehicles scheduled for servicing at the nearby satellite workshop facility, ensuring a seamless and convenient experience for customers.”

“Velocity” sat down for an exclusive interview with Mr. Tan. Here are excerpts from our talk with him.

VELOCITY: How important is it for the company to open Motor Image Alabang, and to ensure that this dealership is MIP-owned and controlled?

GLENN TAN: Alabang started out as a dealership with a dealer partner. It was in operation for more than 10 years, and because of COVID-19 pandemic, I think they gave up on the dealership — which was fully understandable at that time, you know. No one knew what was going on.

So, you know, we were kind of struggling to reestablish Alabang, which traditionally has been a very good area for us. We were here when Alabang was just a lot of green grass; now it’s fully developed. I’m pretty confident that there’s really huge group of customers who want 3S (sales, spare parts, and service) here near their house.

A lot of our customers who bought from the previous dealer and needed a servicing point would have to go to (Subaru) Manila Bay. It’s not far, it’s not near. Here in Alabang they drop off the vehicle at the building and then we have the car jockeys drive the car five minutes to our workshop at the back. It’s a huge workshop with a body shop and everything. What we’ve done, which I do in several other countries, is this: In the past, it was very common to have a showroom, workshop, and parts (supply) in the same facility. Now, we have a nice frontage, we have service advisors right here, you drop your car here, and we have a couple of car jockeys on standby who will drive your car to the back. And when it’s done, we bring the car back. It’s easier to split the back of the house and the front of the house. The (service area) is less than five minutes away with no traffic; very convenient.

I think a lot of our customers like it that we’re back here. They would be confident now that we’re here, and it’s not just a dealer. Motor Image has always been here since I started this 15, 16 years ago. We’ve been here so long, (Subaru) Greenhills is still there, and now this is our latest outpost, so to speak.

When we were first considering Alabang, I pointed to a dealer instead at that time because I wasn’t sure where we’re going to be, but you know, we’ve grown so far and so fast. We’ve been here a long time so I’m quite happy to have our own store here to give the customers in Alabang confidence that we’re here to stay. I mean, having them see a dealer change or go can be very frustrating. I want to make sure that clients know that this time, okay, I won’t go and keep changing the dealer. We want to make sure the service shop is up to standard. I do my own.

So, the message is really that you’re here for the long haul?

We’re here for the long haul, yeah. We’ve already started hiring technicians, salespeople, and others since September last year. The technicians are now training in our Manila Bay facility (and they’ll move from there to) Alabang. We are moving some of the senior people over here as well. We are aware that there’s a huge community of customers here.

What’s the outlook like for the growth in the number of dealerships here? Are you looking at adding more dealers, not necessarily company-owned?

I think we’re looking at serving the provinces a little bit better. We’re studying to see, even if we can’t do dealers first. We will try to find authorized service repair shops that would actually handle the servicing, as a first step, then we see how they can still buy from our branches. We’re looking at all these options with the team.