Crisis Management 101
Social media is a powerful tool. It’s a tool for us to connect with each other no matter the distance, to share snippets of our lives, and to engage and do business. In the automotive space, that couldn’t be more true.
Car brands make full use of social media to connect with their customers. But it’s a two way street; customers can also reach out to brands to inquire, to clarify, and even to air a complaint.
And if a complaint isn’t addressed, if the claim is one that defies belief, that two way street can easily become a free for all brawl. We’ve seen it before, and recovering from it once it gets out of hand is difficult and it will take time.
Recently an issue popped on social media that could have easily taken down an automotive brand. No, we’re not talking about a Chinese brand; we’re talking about Peugeot Philippines.
The owner of a Peugeot unit took to social media to air a very serious grievance over the handling of his vehicle. Below is the post in full:
"My car has been in Peugeot Pasig since February 2023 (wow, 11 months and still counting) and they’ve been nothing but incompetent, unresponsive, and full of excuses for the entire duration of this very poor service. From the tech representative to the group general manager, brand carrier and distributor, everyone’s highly irresponsible.
And apparently, the Pasig dealership is now closed as of December 2023 - January 2024 but take note, they didn’t have the audacity to mention this to me at all. The amount of damages - financially, mentally and emotionally - they’ve caused me is crazy. I can write in full details with receipts and screenshots on how absurd this has been - heck, this is the worst service ever.
Astara Philippines, Gateway Group, ano na?"
If I was in his shoes, I would be livid too. I’m surprised the owner gave them 11 months before he posted about it. What could possibly be wrong with a car that couldn’t be solved after a proper diagnosis at a service center of a dealer with all the tools, all the manuals, access to parts, all the diagnostic equipment and the direct line to the brand and its engineers?
We messaged Arlan Reyes (the newly minted brand head of Peugeot Philippines) shortly after the issue popped up a few days ago. They were unaware of full situation as it had not been escalated to them, but Arlan knows a thing or two about managing a potential crisis. He was the Marketing Manager of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines when the first incidents of the SUA crisis emerged. Actually, I was right beside him during a January 2016 photoshoot for the current generation Montero Sport when his phone started ringing from journalists and broadcasters asking for statements.
So they got to work right away to find out what was going on. They had to step in and take charge of the situation before it snowballs into a disaster.
The car has been at Peugeot Pasig (owned by a dealer group that is right now in the middle of a tumultuous period) for almost a year. And yes, it has shut down as of January 2024.
The car itself is not one that was sold by current Peugeot distributor Astara: it is a 2014 Peugeot 508 4-door sedan turbodiesel. But regardless of who the distributor is, the brand is still theirs to take care of, even if the car pre-dates their operations.
The problem is a rather straightforward one: there’s a leak in the coolant and transmission. The sign is easy to see: the water and the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) are mixing. The solution is simple: flush out the fluid, fit right gaskets, o-rings and other parts, refill the fluid and you’re good to go.
But that’s not what happened, according to Arlan of Peugeot Philippines.
The parts needed to fix the car are available and in stock at the storage of Astara, but the dealer (which had already closed down) hadn’t ordered them for some reason. So Astara stepped in and had the right parts fitted, refilled it, and tried to start the car.
The 508 wouldn’t run, says Arlan. The reason: the coolant flushing hadn’t been done by the dealer. So they finally performed the job, and the 508 started up.
There’s no magic involved here. All that’s really needed is a bit of competence and proper management, but that’s not what the customer experienced. And to think it took almost a year for it to happen.
There are actually more things that was shared with us that we can’t write, but the car is being sorted out now according to Peugeot and that’s what matters. Astara says their aftersales director is already in contact with the owner of the vehicle, and that they will be moving the car to their own facility in LIIP, Laguna. There they will carry out some more checks and freshen up the car before returning it to the owner.
This is the trial by fire for Peugeot in the Philippines and for Arlan in particular, but if there was a textbook response to such a trial, I imagine this is it. Issues always happen at the dealer and service levels, and more often than not the problem is straightforward to sort out. But if an issue does emerge, it’s better to get in front of it as soon as you recognize it, solve it, and be transparent afterwards.
That's how it should be, and that's how it was in this this case.