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ANSA Motors opens one-stop shop in Chaguanas

Friday, February 19, 2016

On February 1st, 2016, ANSA Motors opened its sprawling, multi-product showroom in the borough of Chaguanas. Located on the corner of Chan Ramlal Street and the north-bound lane of the Uriah Butler Highway and sitting on five acres of land with 50,000 square feet of space allocated for the show-room, the new facility is a combination of both form and functionality. It is designed to cater to every imaginable need a potential car buyer could conceptualize.

Strategically located across the showroom are luxury brands such as BMW, Land Rover and Jaguar, while brands such as Ford, Mit-subishi and Honda also impose their pres-ence.

Additionally, the facility houses an industrial and agricultural division (Burmac), a retail outlet for spare parts, a state-of-the-art service department and an ultra-modern balancing and alignment centre. 

Neil Mohammed, general manager of ANSA Motors spoke with the Business Guardian about the company’s decision to open a Chaguanas facility, the challenges facing the local automotive industry and ANSA Motors commitment to creating a “WOW Effect” for its customers.

ANSA Motors: A Rebranded Entity

The name of the new facility ANSA Motors, immediately stands out as being unique from its counterparts within the automotive segment of the ANSA McAL Group. Names such as Richmond Motors, Oxford Motors, Diamond Motors and Classic Motors, McErneaney Motors and Burmac Machinery have been popular with customers in the local car market for many years. 

It was only natural, therefore, that the name boldly embossed on the multi-million dollar building would pique a particular kind of curi-ousity. Commenting on this, Mr. Mohammed was quite open about the name’s intent. “Yes, this is part of a rebranding exercise. All the other companies will have for the purposes of the principals (manufacturers) their same name, so Richmond Motors, Oxford Motors, Classic Motors will remain, but ANSA Motors will be the umbrella organization under which all these brands are housed.”

Why Chaguanas? Why now?

Describing the Chaguanas mega-facility as “one of a kind,” Mohammed made it clear that the vision shared by the ANSA McAL group chairman, Norman Sabga, its chairman emeritus, Anthony Sabga and head office exec-utives was that Chaguanas will emerge as the largest hub for commercial activity across Trinidad and Tobago. 

“It is required now that we decentralize. If one were to traverse along the highway in the borough of Chaguanas, one would see the vol-ume of construction activity taking place, which means that people have decided they want to come to Chaguanas. So we are here. We want to ensure that we are here before they come so we are able to treat with their (automotive) demands and expectations.” 

Calling the Chaguanas facility the “crème-de-la-crème” in the automotive sector, Mohammed spoke of the convenience that locating such a facility in Chaguanas affords customers. 

“Our facility offers secured and convenient parking. Customers can come in to our multi-product facility and not have to worry about wreckers or other such issues.

“Our facility will add to the growth and modernization of the borough.”

The evolving customer

Commenting on the evolution of car-buyers, Mohammed noted that customers had become more discerning in their tastes and preferences for new cars. 

The automotive sales executive said: “Car manufacturers in our core brands have now positioned their brands to allow features in their vehicles that would have otherwise existed only in luxury vehicles.

“Customers have now grown accustomed to these type of features. Touchscreens, steering controls, front and rear cameras have been incorporated into these core brands and are the high points of good customer experience.”

On making the car buying experience more convenient for customers, Mohammed elab-orated on the unique 'In One' package offered by ANSA Motors. 

“We have set up a Tatil and ANSA Merchant Bank offices at our facility. When customers visit the facility we can offer the “In One” package which our chairman developed and is a brand of its own within the Ansa McAl Group. “The 'In One' package offers product financing, insurance and free maintenance. Many have tried to follow this but we believe ours to be the most successful.”

When asked how the company plans to handle competition in the local market, Mohammed said: “I tell my staff all the time that we don’t just sell automobiles, we don’t just sell spare parts, we don’t just sell workshop competence. What we sell is service, and this facility will ensure we deliver on our promise. Cus-tomer service is our number one priority. From the time they drive in to the time they exit, we want to give them a ‘WOW Effect’.” 

Dealing with the Recession

Confident that there is strong public recognition of its brands, Mohammed pointed out that ANSA Motors is not daunted by a recession. Going further, Mr. Mohammed stated that similar to the world econ-omy, the company is expecting some “belt tightening” in the local economy. 

“We are going to have to shape our business to treat with the customers’ expectations.

“Certainly prices would not remain the same, but we have to obviously work much harder to deliver better service and better quality to our customers. We expect the construction business to grow more slowly than in years gone by, but we see a lot more business coming from the retail trade where businesses will be upgrading their fleet”.

Commenting on the foreign exchange situation, Mohammed stated that like other organizations, acquiring foreign exchange is a challenge that they grapple with. With respect to the rising interest rate environment in the local market, Mohammed pointed out that customers often make the necessary adjust-ments based on their desires.

“Once a customer has the desire and will to own a new car, they tend to shape their finances to meet these demands,” he said.

Success Based on Core Values

According to Mohammed, the key to ANSA Motors success is based on the core values that run through the veins of the organization. “The values that have been created and disseminated from head office level down throughout the organization have allowed ANSA Motors to thrive in the automotive industry. Our brand has been around for over 100 years. 

“Our employees satisfaction with the organisation that they work for motivates them to deliver the desired results to our customers. Our core values of being employee centered, focusing on customer excel-lence, creativity and innovation while at the same time fostering a culture of respect and trust and maintaining our social responsibility have been the hallmark features upon which our success is based.”

Forex for vehicles 

Jerome Borde, Sector Head Automotive Division at ANSA McAL, was asked about how the supply of foreign exchange, and the surrounding issues, have been affecting business in the Automotive segment. 

Commenting on where the division acquires its supply of foreign exchange, Borde pointed out that they receive it from the banking system and from within their own groups' operations. 

“Our restriction and access is as every other busi-ness,” Borde was quick to point out, noting that all their vehicle purchases are made in US dollars.  

Asked whether Ansa Automotive purchases hedges to capture favourable rates for foreign exchange, Borde said: “Access to foreign exchange to settle options is too unpredictable and presents other risks. Therefore to hedge may not be the right option at this time”.

Borde also did not hesitate to make mention of the fact that as exchange rates change so too will car prices. 

“Our view is that as the exchange rate goes up, so too will prices. Now may be the best time to con-sider that vehicle purchase,” he said.

Finally, asked about whether the decline in the VAT rate from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent will be passed on to customers, Borde responded with an emphatic “Absolutely!”

Central Bank on car dealerships

In his controversial speech on December 4, 2015 at the Monetary Policy Forum held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port-of-Spain, former Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran said that car dealerships are the fourth largest user of foreign exchange. 

They used US$1.3 billion or just under 10 per cent of total foreign exchange supply over the past three years. The top five users of foreign exchange in the period between January 2013 and November 2015 were:

•    Southern Sales -US$275 million

•    Massy Motors -US$251 million

•    Toyota -US$245 million

•    Diamond Motors-US$59 million

•    Lifestyle Motors -US$36 million

In that speech, the controversial details of which have been edited out of the presentation of the Central Bank’s website, Rambarran said that the retail and distribution sector was the most voracious consumer of foreign exchange, swallowing almost US$4.5 billion or nearly one-third of the total foreign exchange sold over the past three years. 

Five companies alone accounted for over US$1 billion of the total foreign exchange sales to the retail and distribution sector: 

•    PriceSmart -US$507 million

•    Courts-US$198 million

•    Smith Robertson & Co-US$169 million

•    AS Bryden- US$153 million

•    Massy Distribution - US$136 million

Rambarran said that the manufacturing sector was the second largest ​consumer of foreign exchange, using close to US$2 billion in 2013-2015, or just under 15 per cent of total supply. 

The third largest user of foreign exchange between January 2013 and November 2015 was credit cards. Commercial banks must make pay-ments to the Visa and Mastercard before satisfying any other source of foreign exchange demand. Credit card payments consumed about US$1.8 billion or 13 per cent of total foreign exchange supply in the last three years.

Twenty days after that statement, Rambarran’s appointment as the Central Bank Governor was revoked by the Government because he had breached Central Bank confidentiality rules.