BORN in 1964, the year before Singapore became an independent nation, 51-year-old Michael Lim has come a long way, just like the Lion City.
When I was 12 years old, I wanted to have many cars in the future, from small to big!
BORN in 1964, the year before Singapore became an independent nation, 51-year-old Michael Lim has come a long way, just like the Lion City. And he took the Motorway route to success in the local car trade. His company was registered in 1992, its name being an indirect translation of the Chinese term for “big avenue” – da dao. Motorway hit the road with three employees and a used car dealership. Today, it has a staff strength of 120 and several business divisions. In addition to being Singapore’s authorised dealer for Korean sports-utilityvehicle specialist manufacturer SsangYong and Swedish hypercar marque Koenigsegg, Motorway also has one of the biggest rental car fleets here and, currently, the largest selection of pre-owned McLarens, Lamborghinis and Bentleys in Singapore. We spoke to Michael, who is also the newly appointed president of the Singapore Vehicle Traders Association, at Motorway’s eight-storey headquarters in Lower Delta Road.
How did you get started in the motor trade?
After I ROD from the army in 1984, I joined a car firm at the age of 20. I was a dispatch there for around two years, then the company promoted me to do sales. I did that for around six years, after which I set out on my own and established Motorway. When I was 12 years old, I wanted to have many cars in the future, from small to big!
What would you consider your greatest career achievement?
Starting from scratch with Motorway. Our car rental business, for instance, grew from zero vehicles to almost a thousand. I’m still a bit surprised we achieved that.
Any “speed bumps” that slowed Motorway’s growth?
The most diffi cult challenges were the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the Government’s move in 1995 to tighten car financing to 70 percent [quantum] and seven years [repayment period]. The car market was so bad at the time, we lost a minimum of $50,000 per car, be it Japanese or continental. And we had just expanded our showroom from 1000 sq ft to 25,000 sq ft. It was very stressful! I could not sleep well for months. I worried about customers returning their cars or banks chasing payments. But I faced up to reality and worked something out. Whatever cars we had in hand and whatever the off er, we just let them go and collected the cash. Motorway managed to pull through.
Motorway is the local agent for SsangYong SUVs and Koenigsegg supercars.
What’s on the road map for Motorway in the future?
We’ll expand our rental division by increasing the fleet size from 1000 to 2000 or 3000, and adding more supercars for rent/lease.
Is your family involved in the business?
My elder son, who’s 26, manages his own business. My younger son, 21, is still in national service.
What do you drive most of the time?
My SsangYong SUV, the Actyon. It’s small and easy to drive. Any other Motorway car, I just try it once and then leave it there!
Favourite food and holiday destination?
Chinese dishes, especially bak kut teh. China, for its food and scenery.
As a 51-year-old Singaporean, how do you feel about SG50?
I feel proud, lah