Bright Young Things: Jayden Liew of Wheelcorp Premium

Close Up

March 9, 2016 | BY Karmun Ng

Jayden Liew's journey to the top started from as early as when he was 14, groomed by his father who believed no teacher beats old-fashioned experience.

Do not be surprised if the next time you walk into Wheelcorp Premium in Shah Alam -- currently the biggest 4S centre for BMW and Mini cars in Malaysia -- you are greeted by a young gentleman tirelessly making his rounds at the place, sometimes even opening doors for guests.

Twenty-six-year-old Jayden Liew may be the dealer principal and executive director of the impressive 5-floor one-stop centre for all things BMW and Mini, but he makes it a point to know each of his customers by name.

Again, do not be surprised by his age – his youthful looks belie a long and arduous journey, through which he has relentlessly crawled to be where he is today. 

“Everyone who has met me always remarks on how young I look,” he says with amusement, “but I’ve been doing this for close to decade. Moreover, my growth has not been an organic growth. It’s an oven-cooked, high-pressure growth.”

One look at his portfolio shows why even Moët & Chandon handpicked him to be an advocate of its THE NOW campaign, fronted by ambitious and fearless individuals who aren’t afraid to seize the moment and revel in the thrill of living. 

Liew may be succeeding his father Michael Liew’s business, but Wheelcorp Premium is a project he conceptualised, pitched for and eventually materialised all on his own accord. This single but giant step turned around a business model that once only dealt with used and middle-market cars to look at a more premium market. 

Prior to that, Liew was put through a very steep learning curb, too, by his father who believed no teacher beats old-fashioned experience, and threw him right into the deep end from when he was as young as 14. 

Starting from the bottom

Wheelcorp Premium managing director, Michael Liew; former BMW Group Malaysia managing director and CEO, Alan Harris; and Jayden Liew

His training began in the car wash of one of his father’s dealerships, on the first day of Chinese New Year, no less, where in his new clothes, he washed cars till his hands peeled. Weeks of that was followed by months of administration work where he was subjected to the mercy of seniors easily 10 years older, who believed he was only there because of his father. 

Things picked up when he started doing sales, which he found he was really good at, thanks to a natural gift of the gab. Six years in, at 20 years of age, he was finally pushed to helm a management role seen to before this by his father.

“The biggest challenge is the fact that everyone else is older than you,” shares Liew. “I didn’t know the correct way to manage them when they clearly have a lot more experience than me.” Click here to continue →

Letting results speak for themselves

Playing to his strength, he decided to let the numbers in the annual reports do the talking.

“Since selling cars is my expertise, I decided to prove myself with numbers,” he tells. “ I challenged myself to sell 200 cars within that year while learning how to lead my team.” 

He counts that time of his life as one critical to his long-term maturation. “That’s when I learned the most of my people skills. The customers I met, they were all different – they had different expectations, different demands and were of different backgrounds, yet I had to meet them all.” Click here to continue →

Daring to dream big

About a year in, he began toying with the idea of dealing premium cars, which his father outright told him was “crazy”. Before Wheelcorp Premium, all premium brand owners are listed corporate companies. 

“Wheelcorp came in as the first SME,” Liew tells proudly. “It took me 2 weeks to prepare the proposal. In the week leading up to the presentation, I couldn’t sleep. During the presentation, the former MD asked if I was really 21.” 

“It helped that our company has always been a very high performing one and I had my father, who has been in the business for more than 30 years, guiding me. Me being my father’s son helps as well; in the automotive industry, they want to see something that is sustainable long-term, over generations." Click here to continue →

Never looking back

Today, Wheelcorp Premium stands tall and proud in all its 5 storey grandeur, spread across close to 1.1 acres of land. Within its 108,000 sq ft space, customers can buy, trade-in, sell, service, and do any bodywork they want, as well as have insurance claims and any repairs taken care of in cases of accidents. 

Liew is already planning ahead. “We want to have more service centres, more bases across the country, so we can handle up to 120 cars a day,” he reveals. "Now, we average about 70-80."

“After we moved in, we realised this space will not be enough in 3 years. We are planning for another block already. We already have the land, the plan is already in place. You can expect to see this expansion in the next few years.” Click here to continue →

Nothing wrong with starting early

To those who have any doubt in him because of his age, he says, “There’s nothing wrong with starting early. The first 4 years when you start out is all ground work, where you grasp the basics so you know the full works of everything  in each department. Only then can you make better decisions at the top.” 

He is bulletproof to those who say he is riding on his father’s coattails as well. “With Wheelcorp Premium, it was my call from start to finish. I learned a lot from my father, but from the moment I brought up a premium concept dealership, he has left everything up to me.”

“People say I’m young because I’m 26, but to me, time is limited. I want to make the most out of it. I have my 5 year and 7 year goal as we speak and I intend to achieve them.”

(Photos: Wheelcorp Premium)

Another Bright Young Thing we have our eyes on: Rebekah Yeoh, corporate finance manager at YTL Corporation by day, social entrepreneur by every other hour outside of the office.