It’s not easy being Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM). The recent reorganisation that brought in new distributor Porsche Holding Salzburg and its handpicked captains to steady the ship coincides with a slowdown in the Malaysian auto market that has seen total volume decline after six years of growth. We’ve hit turbulence, and industry players predict another challenging year ahead, but the premium segment seems unaffected by the crunch.

The problem for VW is that it’s not playing in the premium segment, despite having some credible ‘near premium’ offerings such as the latest Passat. The mass-market European brand plays in the same field as the Japanese stalwarts (Honda is now No.2 in Malaysia, while Mazda’s revival continues) and perhaps in leaner times, punters become less adventurous. That’s on top of the well-documented legacy problems VPCM inherited.

It seems like a difficult – impossible, even – task for the new management, but the team – led by two MDs, namely Florian Steiner and Erik Winter – has hit the ground running. Since VPCM’s debut in September last year, the brand has introduced a new five-year factory warranty to replace the previous 3+2 extended warranty format.

The company has also rolled out a goodwill programme that will provide an additional two-year warranty for DSG transmissions on VW cars produced up until December 2013 and with a mileage of up to 200,000 km. It will come into effect after the expiration of the five-year warranty period on these vehicles. The goodwill is also extended to other selected components including the old 1.4L twincharged engine (Mk6 Golf TSI) on a case-by-case basis.

There’s also a standard Volkswagen parts warranty that offers automatic two-year warranty on replaced parts/paid repairs, excluding wear and tear. This, Steiner says, has not been emphasised enough in the past.

Parts availability is another known issue, and this is being remedied by a parts urgent order system that promises dealerships a next-day delivery if an order gets in before 11 am (an extra day on top of that, if the order is made by 2 pm). The parts are currently coming from Singapore, which is 98% equipped, but VW’s main parts hub will be moving north to Johor in 2018, which should further reduce waiting times.

The final pillar in the after sales initiative is the onsite coaching that is being provided to the dealers. Volkswagen experts from abroad are stationed in Malaysia to assist the locals in both technical matters as well as processes.

Also, a Volkswagen Academy is currently nearing completion and will be opened in the second quarter. This VPCM dedicated training facility will house technical and sales training and can accommodate up to 150 people a day, more than double the current capacity. It is said that VW Singapore will also make use of the well-equipped four-storey training centre in Glenmarie, Shah Alam.

Meanwhile, four new 3S centres will open this year including the recent one in Batu Pahat. The others will be in Tebrau (Feb), Permas Jaya (March) and Seremban (April). All these efforts address directly the main issues that have affected the VW ownership experience of certain customers, which are also the main concerns of prospective customers.

“We’re not hiding. We can’t answer everything, but there’s a willingness to solve problems. We’re not perfect, but we are constantly improving,” Steiner said, emphasising importance of the principal’s support for its dealer network. “We’re here to empower and support the dealers,” he added.

These after-sales efforts reflect VPCM’s current mission in Malaysia – to build the brand and regain the trust and confidence of customers and would-be customers. The focus on this means that sales “volume is not a primary driver for 2017.” The brand shifted 6,048 units in 2016 for a 1.2% market share, which is in line with the company’s targets, it was revealed.

No 2017 sales goal was shared with the media, but VPCM is seeking “sustainable growth” and to simply maintain market share. There will be two main launches this year – of the new Tiguan and updated Beetle – plus some special editions, but the focus will be on activities that will build the brand. Years ago, there were plans to bring in the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid, but that has been scrapped.

The unprecedented “Drop Everything” sale by VW in the first half of last year offered eye-popping prices on old stock that had to be cleared. While it worked as intended, such an approach may not be good for the brand in the long term, although there were probably not many options for VW given the situation then. Resale values, already battered, would have been affected by the mega sale.

The company believes that by “regaining trust and confidence,” resale values will improve, but admits that it’s a long process. “It won’t come overnight, it takes time, but we believe that with a better brand image, residual values will improve,” said Winter.

What’s for sure is that there will not be another Drop Everything-style big sale. Winter reiteratedwhat was said before and declared that “we keep the prices,” which also means that there won’t be any increase in price despite the forex situation surrounding the ringgit. “There will be incentives during festive seasons, but we won’t be seeing discounts of RM30,000 to RM40,000 again,” he said.