For the last 35 years, Karsono Kwee has been steadily building his car empire in Singapore and Indonesia, and counts Porsche and Rolls Royce amongst his brand stable. Now, this passionate Indonesian-born, Singaporean-bred gentleman has started leasing luxury cars, a service that is still new in Singapore. Although he is so well established, he still puts as much into his business now as he did when it was a start up.
You have built such successful car businesses in Singapore and Jakarta. How did you start?
It was my passion for cars that led me into the car business. I was already a proud owner of a number of Porsche cars back in 1985, and jumped at the opportunity to become the new distributor of Porsche in Singapore when the previous dealer ran into difficulties. Despite competition from 10 other suitors, I clinched the distributorship, and that marked the beginning of my automobile business.
Tell us a bit about your rise to the top of the car industry. How did your businesses grow, what are some of the highlights/turning points in your career?
Trans Eurokars Pte Ltd was incorporated in 1991 and is today the holding company of the Eurokars Group of Companies. Today, the Group holds the exclusive distributorship of premium car marques in Singapore, including Porsche, Saab, Opel, Rolls Royce and MINI. In Indonesia, the Group represents Porsche and Rolls-Royce, BMW in West Jakarta and Mazda in North and South Jakarta. It is also the exclusive dealer for BMW M and Individual products [Pearlin – BMW M is the sports brand of BMW; take out “and individual products”] as well as 3M vehicle related products in Indonesia.
My key strategies for success - being sharp in identifying the right opportunities, the right brand and the right partners, creating delightful and excellent customer ownership experience through everything that we do, be it the events, service delivery or anything else.
You now have Eurokars Leasing. Why did you decide to go into leasing cars?
Eurokars Leasing was set up in 1999 to respond to interest from companies who are looking at fleet management service and expatriates who have a short tenure of stay in Singapore. In 2006, Eurokars Leasing saw an opportunity in the wedding arena and decided to market the MINI aggressively for short-term rental to wedding couples. The MINI was well received by wedding couples who wanted a stylish and memorable wedding. This year, we started the limousine service, hoping to cater to customers who need to be chauffeured around in a statement vehicle, be it airport transfers or a ride around town.
What do customers look for when leasing a car?
When considering leasing a car, customers usually look for convenience, service and price competitiveness. For example, with leasing, a customer does not have to come up with an initial large amount to purchase a vehicle. They could choose to lease or engage our limousine service and pay as they use the vehicle. It is therefore, a more economical and hassle-free process compared to purchasing a vehicle.
Being part of the Eurokars group of companies, Eurokars Leasing has an added advantage as a service provider. Our fleet of cars are maintained and serviced by our trained technicians from the respective brands. 24/7 roadside assistance is also instrumental in our customers’ confidence in us.
How can visitors to Singapore benefit from Eurokars Leasing?
Eurokars Leasing will do its utmost best to meet customers’ needs. We are confident in delivering an efficient and hassle-free service to tailor-make a leasing programme to meet our customer’s budget with the type of vehicle that meets their requirement.
Is Singapore a good destination for luxury travellers and why?
Yes, especially with the two new integrated resorts and many other interesting attractions, Singapore has now become a much sought-after travel destination. One can find numerous upmarket and luxury stores in Marina Bay Sands, Resorts World and also the ever popular Orchard belt that offers endless hours of shopping.
What do you personally like best about Singapore?
Singapore is a very safe country. It enjoys political and economic stability and I do not have to worry about security. With good government as well as strong infrastructure, we are poised to enjoy the benefits of good economic growth.
I enjoy Japanese and Chinese food. My favourite restaurants include Tatsuya in Goodwood Park Hotel and Nadaman in Shangri-La Hotel. Chinese restaurants like Ba Xian restaurant in Tower Club and Yan Ting in St Regis also serve very good food and are reasonably priced.
Three things you would recommend about Singapore to visitors now?
Marina Bay Sands Skypark, Universal Studios and Resorts World Sentosa
[Pamela, is it ok to name these places and not others?]
You¹re on the road so much. What do you look forward to when you return to Singapore?
After a hard day’s work, I look forward to relaxing in the evenings at home, tuning in to soft sentimental music, whilst browsing through the latest car magazines.
When you wake up on a Sunday morning, you like to ...
Take my time to sip my tea and enjoy my breakfast. And, thereafter, it’s another day’s work as I head down to my city showrooms to mingle with customers and catch up with the staff.
With a portfolio of notable car brands under his belt, Karsono Kwee has proven that he is a force to be reckoned with in the car distribution and retail industry. He talks to us about his path to success, his business philosophy and what he likes best about Singapore.
This article was first published in The Republic