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Published on June 11th, 2022 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Are Car Customers In Malaysia Getting ‘Customer Satisfaction’?

Why then decades of unhappy car customers in Malaysia?

Even before Covid-19 arrived and car dealerships had issues with professional labour and well run after sales, there were many issues reported by car customers on social media about delayed repairs, repeat breakdowns and mounting electrical issues, especially with complicated plug-in hybrid systems that our local car brands had no choice but to sell and maintain as instructed by the principals in factories far away.

car customers

Yes, the whole ‘we must lower emissions’ and have ‘low fuel consuming vehicles’ was repeated over and over by the many foreign car manufacturers, but they continued to build larger, heavier and faster vehicles that sucked more fuel and provided more after sales headache for their Malaysian dealers.

From quick shifting gearboxes, to high pressure turbochargers, to low capacity engines working with battery packs to provide high torque, Malaysian car buyers in the premium segment were ‘force fed’ with ‘high performance numbers’ to get them to part with their hard earned money for these ‘fancy’ machines.

car customers

Meanwhile, there was going to be little support coming from the overseas factories as they enjoyed high profits whilst Malaysian ‘service advisors’ and workshop managers were getting shouted at by a growing number of disgruntled customers.

car customers

So, what is the reality of car ownership in Malaysia?

  1. Car brands must show that they mean “Customer first” by adopting the same strict buy back procedure and compensation as per USA/EU “Lemon Law” regulations. Why the double standards for Malaysian customers? Sometimes even safety related car issues are given the run-around and “tai chi” manoeuvres.   Customers here just have to swallow the lack of legal doctrines and pay for all the inconvenience. Question is why can’t the car brands despite not having the local legal doctrines, practice what is the norm in their home country? Double Standards? Hypocrisy?
  • Car brands are well known for insisting their dealer network invest millions in their showrooms. (> 30 -50 million RM) They have a play book – tiles, chairs, furniture, tools equipment all must meet manufacturer’s specs – meaning imported sometimes). Every color or code must be pre-approved.  So that customer gets the ambience and feeling in showroom. Why not then a play book for defective car buy-backs? Same rules must apply here. Why choose one (showroom) but not the other (buybacks)? Let the customer have the same ambience here and same convenience via “Lemon Laws” buybacks in home country.
  • The dealer and manufacturer are at odds when it comes to customer service. Who owns the customer? Dealer says it’s them but manufacturer claims it is theirs via warranty obligations. However, when a defective car pops up, both are at loggerheads and the blame game starts. Where is the “Customer first priority” that is propagated via all their promotional material? With a clear Lemon Law – this blame game ends immediately. Customer is a first priority for both (dealer and manufacturer).
car customers

  Governmental Shortcomings in Malaysia?

  • The NAP (National Auto Policy) for starters only looks through the lens of a manufacturer’s investments, employment, tech-transfer, local content etc. Incentives via tax rebates given to them are based on these criteria.  Customer issues and car defective issues are not part of this policy and thus the manufacturers do not see a need to make provisions in their P/L for car buybacks (due to defective cars). Why should they if government does not see this as critical.?
  • Future NAP must consider this nexus between making profits and customer or consumer rights of buyers.  Current NAP is heavily skewed towards manufacturers interest. Only via a well-defined policy (with Domestic Consumer Affairs Ministry input) can this be realigned. Customers need their rights protected here in this country as well.
  • A safety related car issue must be addressed via a clear “lemon” policy from the government. Currently most manufacturers buy-back the lemon cars, repair it and put it back on the road as a second-hand car. Who vets the safety of these cars on the roads? As cars become more electric and electronic, safety issues will prevail and unwitting customers are putting their lives at risk.
  • Although “Lemon Law” representations to the respective Ministry have been made by local consumer association’s the delay in enacting them is disappointing to say the least. Singapore already has its own Lemon Laws. Only a full-fledged local Lemon Law can protect car consumers from brands less than satisfactory treatment of their defective cars. Car brands have the where-withal to pursue legal means to blunt consumer activism.  
  • What is a “Lemon buy back”? These are defective cars bought back, repaired after many attempts and re-sold back into the market by dealer/manufacturer. Who tracks these “lemon” buy backs especially if they have serious safety related issues? How does a local consumer know if he has bought a lemon buy -back car? A clear policy on this must be formulated together with a comprehensive “Lemon law”.
car customers

Question: Are the car brands willing to up the game and implement buy back procedures as per Lemon Laws in their own country, even before our govt enacts such laws?

Question: Is the Malaysian Government going to fast track our own Lemon Laws which is long overdue? Can the NAP address some consumer issues in its future policy roll-outs especially on defective car buy-backs?  

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