Inchcape sending expats to downsized Singapore office

London-based car distributor tight-lipped about staff moves

Motor distribution giant Inchcape, which axed about 120 employees here this month, is moving senior managers from its London head office to fill regional roles here.

The Straits Times understands that two will arrive in the coming weeks to oversee the Asian markets. More may follow.

At the same time, a senior executive from its Singapore operations has quit on the back of the changes.

The multi-brand distributor has operations in Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Saipan and Guam. In North Asia, it operates in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.

Its brands include Toyota, Suzuki, Hino, Land Rover, Jaguar, Ford, Daihatsu and Chevrolet.

The company, whose stock on the London bourse closed at 712p (S$12.80) on Thursday, did not comment on the moves.

ODD MOVE

Managers in London can probably provide oversight and strategic guidance, but to say they can manage local and regional markets better than Singaporeans might be a stretch.

MR DAVID LEONG, managing director of human resource firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, on the decision to fill regional roles with expatriates.

It recently retrenched about 120 employees at its Singapore subsidiaries Borneo Motors and Champion Motors, which distribute Toyota and Suzuki cars respectively.

Most of the those affected - including chief executive Koh Ching Hong, director of Lexus sales and marketing William Choo and infrastructure development director Victor Tan - have left or will leave by the end of this month.

Human resource observers question the timing of the expatriate transfer.

Mr David Leong, managing director of PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said: "Is our local management staff not up to managing regional roles? Managers in London can probably provide oversight and strategic guidance, but to say they can manage local and regional markets better than Singaporeans might be a stretch."

Meanwhile, Mr Melvin Low, director of after-sales at Borneo Motors, has resigned and is serving his three-month notice.

Mr Low's move follows Inchcape's decision to close its Sin Ming Avenue workshop, the only one serving customers in the island's north-east.

As part of the retrenchment exercise, the after-sales headcount will contract by around 13 per cent.

Mr Low's position will be taken over by business development director Yeow Ing Hwa.

Inchcape would not say how it will cater to vehicle servicing and repairs after the closure. "One way would be to increase shifts, but that will mean longer hours for the smaller team," an insider said.

There are about 142,000 Toyota cars in Singapore, making up nearly a quarter of the total car numbers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2017, with the headline 'Inchcape sending expats to downsized S'pore office'. Print Edition | Subscribe