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The Uber war and Volkswagen’s new technical service centre

POSTED BY admin ON 19 April 2015

UBER n SPAD

By Yamin Vong

Volkswagen invited the media to lunch on Thursday to unveil a historic re-engineering of its after-sales service support for customers. Starting this month, any VW car that is under warranty can be sent to the Volkswagen Technical Service Centre at Cergaz Autohaus at Sungei Pencala beside Taman Tun Dr Ismail.
This is the first such facility from VW and this concept of a manufacturer-supported service centre will be extended to other VW dealerships eventually.

Why is this Volkswagen Technical Service Centre so special? Because it is staffed by a mixture of Cergaz Autohaus’ technicians who work side-by-side and get hand-on teaching from master technicians seconded from VW AG.

While modern diagnostic computers are important, they are nothing without these master technicians who have a deep knowledge and hands-on familiarity with VW cars. Just be hearing the noise, they can in most cases, diagnose what needs to be fixed.

Since 2006 when VW AG established its Malaysian office in Bangsar, VW sales have been growing until the number of its cars on the road overwhelmed the after-sales service capability of its dealers.
Owners who called for an appointment to service their cars under warranty were given appointments that stretched into weeks.

This inability by dealers to service cars under warranty in a timely manner meant that some owners voided their warranty in terms of time or distance intervals. In the case of the extended warranty, even if the distance interval was exceeded by a few kilometres, the insurance company that underwrote the policy were inflexible. Claims for repairs under warranty were routinely rejected if the mandatory service interval was exceeded. You couldn’t blame the insurance company because its job is to exclude any claim that voids the warranty. Even by one kilometre.

Coinciding with the twin-clutch gearbox problems that was exacerbated by a short-sighted management decision two years ago not to recall and fix a transmission oil related problem, the inadequacy of after sales support created ill-will.

Hopefully, this new initiative by the new MD, Armin Keller, of having a manufacturer-dealership Technical Service Centre will start an era of harmony with those VW owners who have been affected.
The centre is equipped to deal with repairs and after-sales service for all non-commercial Volkswagen vehicles, regardless of age or model.

“I love the VW brand and I will buy again if they fix their after sales service,” said Dr Max Long, a passionate driver who has a Golf GTi sharing the garage with his Porsche. His problem is a noisy door caused by the rubber trim.

In my opinion, some of these European car makers have a very rigid opinion about their technical specifications and refuse to accept that tropical conditions are different from desert conditions. That rubbers perish faster in 24/7 tropical heat and humidity, that transmission oils get hotter and that coolants don’t need glycol (even as an anti-corrosive) but would do better with a wetting agent to better dissipate the heat.

We took a RapidKl bus from the Bangsar bus stop to attend the VW media appreciation lunch at Aloft Hotel in KL Sentral.

In less than five minutes, a shuttle-sized RapidKL bus pulled in and we stepped in after the driver said, Yes, the bus goes to KL Sentral.

Within ten minutes we were at Nu Sentral. What a great deal. For RM1.00 ticket fare per passenger, we didn’t have to drive and look for a car park and then pay for parking which can run up to RM43.00 for a three hour sojourn in a KL Sentral hotel.

Talking about public transport, we would like to continue our discussion about the Smartphone-based taxi application, Uber, in Malaysia.

We like it because it represents one of the faces of the revolution that smart-phones have unleashed worldwide.

In Malaysia, the authorities are in a mixed mood. As we understand it, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has rejected the Land Public Transport Commission’s (SPAD) request for it to disable Uber’s smart-phone app.

SPAD then engaged on an entrapment of Uber and GrabCar (the Malaysian equivalent developed by Anthony Tan’s MyTeksi).

So far, SPAD has seized 28 cars of which 11 are Uber and 17 are GrabCar and Blacklane. But it looks like entrapment will be on hold for the time being.

The problem is that SPAD appears to have run out of enforcement officers with valid credit cards. Uber passengers charge their fare to their credit card and to call an Uber ride, you have to register for the service using your credit card.

When an Uber cab is caught entrapped, the enforcement officer’s credit card is blacklisted by Uber and he and his credit card is blacklisted.

Unless he gets a new credit card. Probably that may not be enough too, because Uber is a worldwide operator with a huge IT capability. Probably, these enforcement officers who have solicited and trapped Uber’s drivers are digitally marked for life all over the world, who knows?

Uber clearly violates the Malaysian law that taxis must have for-hire car insurance. The Uber rides are provided mostly by individuals driving their own cars which are covered by standard insurance that specifically exclude for-hire cars.

While Uber breaks the stranglehold of licensing bureaucracy and rent-seekers, it is also taking advantage of individuals who are desperate to earn a few more dollars. We spoke to a young salesman who, after seven months of unemployment and running out of capital, decided to work as an Uber driver to keep up with his monthly RM900 installment for his Toyota Vios.

“They said that Uber had a USD5 million insurance to cover our passengers,” said Jay Narendran (name changed to protect his identity).

“They admitted that they were operating in a grey area of the law and advised that if we were caught, there were two ways: Fight them all the way by legal means or the easy way by telling them that the passenger was a friend.

“If the SPAD asked why the passenger was sitting at the back, we were advised to tell the SPAD officer that you were doing a favour for a Datuk, and the passenger was the Datuk’s friend or son or whatever,” said Jay.

My one week of Uber driving

By Jason N

I had come to know Uber through a friend in my quest to seek a full time position or even a part time job. Having only heard of it through some of the ads on the internet and from the news, I wasn’t too sure what it all was about.

Thus I began researching about Uber and then applied to it through its website, providing a copy of my particulars, being my licence, my IC, my car registration papers and my car insurance. I had thought by uploading all relevant documents that I would be able to start making money by driving, but still the system was inactive. However, after two weeks I received a call from a representative of Uber who asked me to come in for a briefing at Bangsar so I could finally get things running and making some money.
I was given a choice of either an afternoon or a 7pm session. Upon my arrival at a Jalan Maarof bungalow converted into an interior design showroom where Uber has set up its base of operations, I saw a number of people about to enter.

To my surprise there was already a crowd gathered inside and waiting to be briefed by the Uber staff, and upon interacting with the crowd, I realised that many of us applying to be Uber drivers were from all kinds of backgrounds, male and female, from a variety of industries.

The crowd was bigger than expected by Uber and had to be divided into two rooms. Upon entering we were greeted by a young man in his 20’s casually dressed but speaking in an educated and well-mannered tone.
Another Uber staff had taken my IC to do some background checks to confirm I had no criminal record and then the briefing began.

The young man then had us, the Uber driver-to-be, watch a video for around 30 minutes explaining what Uber is and how to use the app. After the video he had come back to collect our particulars and documents to begin registering us within their system.

He explained that Uber is a technological service that employs a ride sharing smart-phone application and to qualify for Uber, a minimum requirement would be for all to be able to speak English, to have a car that is within 10 years old and to have no criminal record.

The young man then also assured us that the service was safe and does a thorough background check for both the rider and the driver and employs a two way rating system. The payment scheme was explained which had a guarantee of a certain amount during peak and non-peak hours that Uber would top up if the minimum was not achieved.

Then he explained that there are 3 different classes of Uber drivers, being the Uber X, Uber Black and Uber Lux. While Uber X is the cheapest and most convenient mode of transport, to qualify for Uber Black the car had to cost at least RM100,000 and with leather seats.

Uber Lux is the top end with BMW’s or Jaguars. He then talked about insurance and the fear of being pulled over by SPAD for doing this service. According to him, Uber is currently running in a grey area whereby the law states that non taxi drivers are not to pick up anyone from the road and not to receive any cash within the vehicle, both of which Uber does not do as it is an appointment based service and cashless.

Furthermore if we were to get caught and car impounded, Uber and their team of lawyers would be mobilised to get any driver out the mess as Uber has an insurance policy of up to USD 5 million for all the drivers.

He then went on to explain the payment scheme which was a bit vague because some details could not be taken down as it was P&C.

Finishing up in there after having my system activated and given a test run which guaranteed me RM 20 for my time, I decided to clean up my car and get a new client as I could not wait to make some money and test out this service.

So I had activated my location and my app and waited to be hailed upon. After around 10 minutes of driving within Bangsar I had caught my first catch of the day, an expatriate at Menara UOA which wanted to be dropped off near Bangsar Village.

He was a pleasant and well-spoken person that came from Russia and has been working in Malaysia for some time. After having picked up my first customer and having a feel for the work, I decided to head home with the app still being on. On my way home, I had received an alert to pick up someone near KL Sentral, and thus I accepted to pick up the person but had to make a big U-turn because the location service had mistakenly placed that customer within my path.

To my biggest disappointment after making that big u-turn I had the request cancelled. I then proceeded home and to my surprise found a client around the Subang area. I had learnt that the core areas for Uber was in the KL area but now realise that Uber has made its way to Subang and its surrounding areas.
The next day I took a break as I had some personal stuff to do in the day but at night had gone out to look for some customers. To my dismay there had been no requests within the area that I live, but had to travel to around KL to look for some work.

Throughout the week while having things to do within KL and going for interviews, I had picked up families, a bunch of friends, solo passengers both male and female, all who were nice and pleasant to talk to. They were all mostly working professionals, expatriates, or students.

The one thing that I was not too sure about still was the payment scheme of Uber as some of my rides had been as low as RM 3 and was worried if I was going to get reimbursed well for my time and the cost of my driving around.

I then decided to call the person from Uber who had invited me for the briefing. However I was told that I could only get the information I wanted by attending another 2 hour briefing session.
Furthermore among the list of personnel at Uber whose contacts were given out to us Uber drivers in case of an emergency or for any questions, did not answer my texted queries. The next Monday I received a payment of close to RM 200 for around 11 rides that I had done. I suppose that was a fair amount for the work that was done.

Now after a week driving with Uber, I have come to the conclusion that the only way to make some real money is to work during the peak hours within the KL area and to try my very best to be in the areas that are ‘surging’ which basically means more demand than supply, that can go up to 10 times the rate of normally driving.

Even better is to get clients that want to go to KLIA or Genting. That’s a good fare.
In relation to my expectation with Uber, I think the service is a good avenue to make some money to cover the cost of your travel especially if you’re already within the KL area. It is also filled with promotions and incentives — advertised by the sms’s from time to time — for both the rider and the driver.

It is also a much cheaper way to travel for the riders, as compared to MyTeksi or the traditional taxi rides that can charge higher.

In terms of the rides itself, most customers are pleasant and easy to deal with but it can be frustrating when a client cancels the request and wastes your time and effort for trying to reach them as there is no remuneration for the driver that accepts the request that is cancelled
The Uber support can be better because the listed contacts are mostly unreachable. When linked, they won’t say on the phone about payments due. One has to be present at the briefing to know more.

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