The Business Year

As competition gets tougher in the automotive sector, all players are in a race to improve their offerings and woo customers in order to build a stronger client base.

Anthony Salerno

Executive Vice President, Bahia Motors S.A.

Over 20 years of experience in this industry has taught us that no matter what type of business you do, you depend on your customers. What we try to do is develop a strong sense of customer loyalty. We have built on this by focusing on customer needs and trying to personalize the attention we offer. What we try to do is keep building on a customer base that is loyal to the company, the distributor, and the brand. This has been a key part of our success and our sustainable growth in the Panamanian market. At present, we are entering the premium and luxury brand space with Acura. Since its introduction, Acura sales have grown tremendously since customers appreciate the quality of the product and understand that it is built by Honda. The Acura brand is world renowned, and also well known for its technology, quality, and safety. For us, it was not a stretch because Honda is also known as a top-quality brand. As a company, we understand we have a given impact, not just on the economy, but on the communities that surround us. There is an institution in Panama called Sumarse that lays down the groundwork and foundations for what a socially responsible company should be. We are a member of this institution, and we aim to meet all of its standards and objectives. Two main areas that we are currently focusing on are environmental impact and education.

Diego Poma

Country Manager, Excel Automotrí­z

The last few years have been difficult for the auto industry in the region. Our plan is strongly focused on innovation, better customer relations through customer retention, and a continuous improvement of our customer service. With these three main pillars we look to continue standardizing all our processes and best practices across the region, giving our clients an added value in doing business with Excel. Innovation plays a key role in guaranteeing a low “effort score“ in our customers’ experience, which helps makes our service transparent, efficient, and easy and increase our market share through more sales and serviced vehicles. Digital platforms and e-commerce are increasing in popularity worldwide, and an increasing number of consumers are preferring to do business through these platforms. Our web and digital sales are on the rise, and they play an important part in our growth. In terms of CSR initiatives, some of our main areas of focus are extreme poverty in the rural areas of the country and malnutrition in children under five years of age. In most countries, we have a clinic which tends only to our employees and their families, free of charge. Locally we are also working with Waved Foundation, a nonprofit that uses surfing around the world to give back to local schools. In 2019, we are focusing on operational efficiency and clients. Through iService platform, ExcelApp, and our digital sales platform, we focus on increasing our customer retention rate and market share in each of the five countries we operate in. 2019 also marks our 100th anniversary as a family-run automotive business.

Francisco Elí­as

CEO, Francisco Elí­as

We have been operating in Panama for one year selling trucks and providing service and replacement parts. During this time, an increasing number of companies working on the metro and the canal projects as well as in the mining sector have started using our vehicles. They know the reputation of our brand from working with us in other countries. Most of the companies working with IVECO are from South Africa, Italy, Germany, and Venezuelan. At present, we are working on increasing our brand awareness in the Panamanian market. People that are aware of IVECO are becoming more curious about the brand. We aim to become one of the top-five companies in Panama. To this end, we will increase our market share by providing innovative products. It is a great opportunity for us because IVECO is introducing new technologies such as an eight-speed gearbox. Hopefully, the future will also include blue power or 100% electric vehicles. Furthermore, we are trying to push the small bus industry in Panama to go electric. This is going to be strategic as we are number one elsewhere in the world. At present, we are training our staff and helping them learn through the courses offered by IVECO. We have a truck for each sector, and training provides a good opportunity to showcase the IVECO brand and capability. Our vehicles range from two to 63 tons of load capacity. When you have a big offering of trucks such as this, we can configure 1,000 variations from one model. Having such a variety for our clients is the best offer.

Humberto Carlo

General Manager, Alemautos Panamá

In 20 years, we have been able to build an extremely successful franchise that assures Porsche that there is a partner who will protect and develop the presence of the brand in Panama. This trust works in many different directions; we have developed a professional team and we have been working and investing to create an excellent service with a very high customer satisfaction. Furthermore, we have a level of satisfaction of over 90%. When you buy a Porsche, you are not buying a car; you are buying a dream. As a product, Porsche is unique as its one of the most exclusive brands. Our competitors manufacture 10 times more cars than Porsche, which makes us a more distinguished vehicle. Porsche was built based on the dream of being able to drive a sports car on normal roads. Porsche has been true to that concept, and although it has diversified into SUVs, sedans, and EVs, the design and the sportiness of the cars remains similar. No other car can provide such an experience. As a business objective, our goal is to grow our volume. We have been growing over several years, even though the economy has not grown as expected. That slow growth has affected the automobile market. Nonetheless, we have increased our sales by 30% YoY. We have been operating for 20 years, and we are one of the most successful brands for Porsche in Latin America. In absolute numbers, we are the fourth-largest importer after Mexico, Chile, and Puerto Rico.

Mónica Garcí­a de Paredes

Sub General Manager, AutoStar

We have been present in Chile for more than 65 years, representing Daimler brands, and this makes us one of the oldest and most experienced distributors for such brands. The knowledge and experience we have developed over this time have been the foundation for our operations in Peru, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. Our status as one of the oldest dealers for Daimler allows us to offer the highest-quality, client-based service. Being part of a group this big means that we are seeing major investments in technology, logistics, and customer intelligence. At present, our largest investment has been in a quality-control project that includes all areas of the company. This project was started in Chile and then replicated across all the other markets including Panama. We have two main partners in Panama for vehicle solutions. We represent Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner from Daimler AG and Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, and RAM from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). Part of our expansion plan is introducing other brands as well, and in the future, we plan to incorporate more of these brands. We have been in Panama for seven years, and during that time we have invested more than USD40 million. Additionally, we are launching new models, and this include hosting events to spread the word about our offerings. Another big investment is a project specifically targeted at improving the quality of our customer care. It will take most of the second half of the year, but the end result will be a significant improvement in the experience of our clients.

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