How Boon Siew Singapore keeps the wheels turning on the bike scene
Honda motorcycle distributor aims to draw in dealers and customers by differentiating its services
They are leaders and figureheads in Singapore's two-wheel industry.
They keep the wheels turning and inject excitement into a scene represented by a multitude of brands.
Biker Boy rode shotgun with Boon Siew Singapore (BSS) general manager Nicholas Wong in July and asked the Honda motorcycle distributor where it is heading.
The 53-year-old said: "The first thing I'm doing now is to churn sales and marketing, the other one is after-sales service. You must have good after-sales service to take care of servicing needs or recalls."
Mr Wong took over the helm at BSS three years ago after 22 years with Kah Motor, the Honda car distributor. In his first year as general manager at BSS, he observed and learned about the motorcycle trade without introducing changes.
The two industries - four and two wheels - are each unique.
Customer profiles, business set-ups and sales volumes are vastly different.
Singapore sees an average of 10,000 new motorcycles registered each year while the car industry has about 80,000 new registrations yearly.
Last year, more than 12,000 new motorcycles were registered.
"I was a bit shocked that our two-wheel dealers are also parallel importers (PIs) themselves. It's kind of hard to differentiate. So I needed to plan how to win them over," he said.
Mr Wong understands it would be hard for dealers to survive in the industry if they sold only one brand. The challenge would be to encourage dealers to promote Honda motorcycles.
The threat of motorcycle parallel importers (PI), who compete solely on price, has always been on the horizon for motorcycle distributors.
Still, BSS is taking on the PI competition by offering motorcycles like the Honda Forza 300 and Honda Super Four, which were previously sold by PIs.
Mr Wong said: "We can't stop PI bikes in Singapore. But we must make the bike available for the customer and for the dealers.
"We must convince the dealers that it is beneficial for them to buy from BSS than taking the risk to import the bikes themselves as sometimes you cannot homologate the bike at all."
As the Honda distributor, BSS handles all backend issues, including documentation for the homologation (certification by the Land Transport Authority) of Honda motorcycles here.
It does so with ease because it maintains close ties with Honda in Japan.
Understandably, dealers are generally concerned with a motorcycle's availability, speed of delivery and prices.
"If we can satisfy these three criteria, we have confidence to win dealers over," said Mr Wong, who has been riding a motorcycle since the age of 19.
Merely doing business with dealers is not enough for BSS. It intends to do more and is in the process of educating and training them to produce the standard that Honda recommends for dealerships.
BSS is also differentiating its services to customers. At its new motorcycle showroom in Alexandra Road, which opened last November, you get a cosy feeling. The team running it is younger and are passionate bikers who all ride Honda motorcycles, said Mr Wong.
BSS' Facebook page is also in tune with the needs of a younger generation, so there are a lot of personal photos, how-to videos and articles on simple motorcycle maintenance.
The Honda distributor has organised rides for new motorcycle owners and is looking forward to collaborations with the Singapore Safety Driving Centre and Bukit Batok Driving Centre.
Mr Wong said: "Even with a COE (certificate of entitlement) price drop, there's no rush to get new motorcycles. The demand comes from repeat purchases.
"We want to change that and attract new riders by organising rides and roadshows, to show that we're a proactive distributor."
Owning a motorcycle today is more expensive than in the last decade, given the fluctuations in COE premiums and additional taxes on bigger luxury bikes.
The latest COE bidding exercise saw the Category D premium ending at $4,301, from $4,400 previously.
Said Mr Wong: "For now, COE premiums are stable. Actually $3,000 to $4,000 premiums are still not low enough. It should go to $1,000 and below."
To satisfy BSS customers and give them value for money, Mr Wong said customers must experience three requirements - the joy of buying a Honda, the joy of owning a Honda motorcycle and the joy of being satisfied and served by BSS staff through a motorcycle purchase.
The long-term enjoyment comes with the many travels taken on a Honda motorcycle, commonly known for its reliability and safety features.
Mr Wong said: "Life to me must always be about having adventures, otherwise you will get bored. I feel a motorcycle is a freedom machine that offers the discovery of new frontiers."