For the last 30 years, Vincar has been fulfilling the wishes of car buyers and car enthusiasts with one of the widest inventories of new and used car models, ranging from saloons and hatchbacks to MPVs and SUVs to sports cars and exotic supercars.
Helming Vincar is its founder and managing director, Vincent Tan. In this interview, this affable, soft-spoken and humble boss sheds light on how the company started, what makes him tick and the factors which have contributed to Vincar?s continued existence and growth in one of Singapore?s most competitive and volatile marketplaces.
What were you doing before incorporating Vincar?
I was working at a used car dealership. At the company I handled sales as well as car financing. I worked there for only six months. I wanted to start my own business and I did so ? it was called Hong Soon Trading. I had a partner and our company bought and sold used cars. We started with a few used cars and the business operated for around one year.
What were your reasons for starting Vincar?
I left the business as I had a different vision and working style from my partner. He was more laid-back and old-fashioned whereas I wanted to pursue the business more actively and proactively. I knew what I wanted, and I realised that the only, fuss-free way to do so was to run a company on my own hence Vincar was born in 1989.
Did Vincar deal with used cars too?
Yes, we did so as it was a familiar business to me. It was only in 1999 when we began selling new cars. I employed around five to six brokers and we operated out of a shop unit in Concorde Hotel.
Where did Vincar get its used cars from?
One of the main sources of used cars was from trade-ins done by a local distributor of a popular Japanese brand. I used to hang out at their showroom daily and every evening, we would receive all the used cars and begin processing the paperwork to take over the cars.
What made Vincar start selling new cars?
It happened by chance. I wanted to purchase a Toyota Harrier for my wife, and I found the price quoted by a parallel importer to be quite expensive. It was then that I decided that Vincar should start selling new cars. After all, we had the infrastructure (administration, showroom, etc.) in place.
What kind of new cars was Vincar selling?
Only Japanese models as I was introduced to a reliable Japanese supplier. It was only a few years later when Vincar began selling continental brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Again, I was extremely fortunate to have friends introduce suppliers to me hence these was reliable contacts. One thing I take a lot of pride on is that the company?s success has been as a result of referrals. Whether it is sources for new cars or customers buying cars from us.
What other factors have contributed to Vincar?s longevity?
The managing of our inventories. We track our incoming and existing stocks very closely and ensure that older models are sold before the latest models come in. And speaking of the latest cars, I track the launch of the newest models via word of mouth, the internet and information from my suppliers, and strive to bring these to Singapore as soon as I can. Last but not least, a key factor is rapport with our customers.
What are some of the past situations which exemplify Vincar?s customer philosophy?
There are quite a few but here are two examples I can recall. One was the worldwide recall of a faulty component in a saloon model from a Japanese brand. We didn?t waste any time and we imported the replacement part promptly and contacted our customers who bought the car to come in and have the component replaced. Another situation arose after we sold a German sports car and the car started developing one problem after another. Eventually, we decided to pay the ?adoption fee? for the car to be considered as if it was purchased from the local distributor, i.e. covered by the full warranty.
What are the major challenges Vincar has encountered?
Thankfully, we have never had any major issues with our suppliers apart from the occasional delay of arrivals of cars. In these cases, we will keep the customers informed so they won?t be left in the dark. The biggest challenges will have to be two things, both of which are out of our control ? economic downturns and changes in government policies.
What are some of the more memorable milestones in Vincar’s history?
Interestingly, the one that comes immediately to mind is our longest serving staff ? dispatch rider, Ah Meng. I know it?s not a milestone but it deserves mention all the same. He has been with us since the start of the company. In fact, we have many staff who have been with us for over 10 years. Other key milestones include the launch of VINCAR in 1989, the opening of our wholly-owned showroom in The Alexcier in 2008 (at that time, very few parallel importers owned a showroom) and our biggest investment to date ? Leng Kee Autopoint. We are part owners of the building and it also houses our new showroom as well as our very own dedicated workshop to handle all our customers? cars.
What are you most looking forward to in the future?
(Laughs) I would like to retire in Hawaii! Jokes aside, besides selling more cars, I would like Vincar to be the authorised distributor of a car brand one day.??
What is the most memorable car you have owned?
?This many come as a shock to everyone but I have only ever owned one car in my life! It was a 1995 Mercedes-Benz C-Class and I bought it from the local distributor, Cycle and Carriage. A few of my friends also purchased the same model and they sold their cars for a handsome profit when the COE price hit $100,000. As for me, I decided against doing so as my wife was enjoying the car so I couldn?t bear to part with it.
(Click here to watch Vincent?s interview by popular website Storm where he shares his thoughts about Singapore?s automotive landscape)